Starting IVF Treatment When You Work
So you’re ready to start your first IVF cycle. It’s a stressful and exciting time—requiring a number of trips to the fertility center for blood work, monitoring, the embryo transfer and follow-up consultations. Some of these visits may need to take place daily or every other day, so how do you balance work and IVF?
What should you tell your boss and colleagues at work? How much news do you want to share? What is your company’s policy on medical appointments? How can you manage the time commitment needed for IVF treatment? Let’s look at some of these questions and the potential actions you may want to take.
How Much Time Will I Need, and Where Will I Need to Go?
Your reproductive endocrinologist and the team at the fertility center should help you create a schedule of visits, including how much time each visit will take. Creating this schedule is the first step in balancing IVF treatments and your work.
Many fertility centers, especially the larger ones, have satellite offices that can do the monitoring required throughout treatment, making it more convenient to get to your appointments. Some fertility centers also have early or late hours, as well as weekend appointments, to help patients avoid missing work as much as possible. Make sure you know what the possibilities are and ask for a schedule that can help accommodate your needs.
What about My Work Schedule?
At work, you may be fortunate enough to create your own schedule and avoid having to disclose any information unless you choose to. However, for the majority of people who are not in that position, it’s best to find out your company’s policy on absences for medical appointments so you know where you stand. Also, determine which coworkers are affected if you have to be away for a few hours on certain days. Will someone pick up your work, or will you be able to make it up on your own? Consider these factors and make a plan for how your work will get done.
If you are working remotely or have a hybrid schedule, you may have more flexibility for scheduling your visits. An article in Harvard Business Review found that working from home during the pandemic made it easier to manage treatment and made absences less visible.
Who Should I Tell and What Should I Say?
Some people are comfortable sharing personal information with people at work, while others are more private and would rather keep the ups and downs of fertility treatment within a small circle of friends and family. Depending on your preferences, you can decide what you feel comfortable sharing with your boss or coworkers. One question to consider is how you would feel if people ask how your treatment is going. For some, having to answer these questions from well-meaning coworkers can increase the stress and pressure. Ultimately, only you and your partner can decide what you want to communicate.
If you decide to tell your boss, make sure you plan what to say in advance. If you prefer to keep your fertility journey private, consider saying that you have a series of medical treatments scheduled in the next few weeks and that you may be late to work, have to leave early, or have lunchtime appointments. Be sure to let your employer know that the treatment is serious, but your condition is not life-threatening.
What about My Career?
Many companies in highly competitive fields such as tech, law, and finance offer fertility benefits to attract employees and improve retention. If a company offers these benefits and is supportive of family building, employees may choose to stay even when presented opportunities from other companies. However, talking about your IVF treatment may cause your boss to assume you will soon be out on maternity leave and unable to take on long-term projects. If you want to continue taking on responsibilities, be sure explain to your employer the uncertainty of IVF treatment and that the time frame can span months to years.
How Can I Get Support?
The physical and emotional toll of IVF can be heightened by the side effects of hormones used in treatment. During this time, don’t hesitate to lean on your support system, whether that includes your spouse, family, or friends. You may also find support groups at your fertility center or online, which can provide a safe space to talk to others with similar experiences.
When balancing work and IVF treatments, it’s important to carve out time for self-care. Anything that makes you feel rested and relaxed can help, whether it’s light exercise, reading a good book, going out for lunch, or practicing mindfulness and meditation. The path to parenthood can be stressful, so it’s important to keep taking care of yourself.
Click here to learn more about how WIN’s Reproductive Behavioral-Health Trained Nurse Care Managers can provide additional support and guidance along the family-building journey.