Anyone who’s ever tried to conceive knows that there are countless highs and lows during the process. To say you might be a little stressed during this period is a bit of an understatement.
While trying to conceive (TTC) can be an emotional rollercoaster on its own, the experience can become even more emotionally fraught for people relying on fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
How do you go on with everyday life while undergoing treatments? In particular, many people going through fertility treatment still work full time. Understanding how to manage that stress and finding positive outlets for encouragement and support can help you manage.
Experiencing fertility concerns can be an isolating experience, but the reality is that they’re incredibly common. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), roughly 10 to 15 percent of American couples experience infertility.
Fertility concerns can impact the sperm-giving partner, too. Male and female infertility each contribute to one-third of infertility cases, according to ASRM. The remaining one-third is a combination of both male and female infertility.
If you’re going to continue working during fertility treatment, certain factors can make the experience more complicated. Insurance coverage can vary widely by company, and family leave policies can depend on both your employer and the state you live in.
Before you can begin figuring out how to work through fertility treatments, you need to determine your rights, and what benefits — if any — you have access to.
Depending on your employer and how long you’ve worked with them, you might qualify for FMLA. While FMLA guarantees only unpaid time off, you could get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year. You could use this leave toward parental leave.
By strict definition, FMLA isn’t designed to cover infertility treatments. However, if your healthcare professional can affirm that your fertility treatments are medically necessary for you to become pregnant, you may potentially apply FMLA leave toward treatments or even medically required bed rest during pregnancy.
Many companies that aren’t governed by FMLA do offer generous parental leave and health policies — including covered health expenses. When in doubt, speak with your company’s human resources or benefits manager to fully understand what leave — if any — you can use. They can also tell you whether your insurance will cover any treatments.
In theory, your medical situation is no one’s business, and you have a right to privacy. But depending on the type of fertility treatments you’re using, it might be unrealistic to keep this process to yourself.
For example, IVF is managed in cycles that usually coincide with your menstrual cycle. This means that a full IVF cycle can last several weeks, and many couples require more than one cycle to achieve success. You’ll need to factor in several appointments, including procedures like egg retrieval and embryo transfer.
Beyond that, keep in mind that some treatments require taking fertility medications. These can create unexpected reactions both physically and emotionally. Many fertility specialists recommend taking 1 or 2 days off from work for the egg retrieval procedure, and some doctors recommend taking a few days off after the embryo transfer as well.
Only you know how agreeable your workplace will be to you taking time off periodically throughout the month to manage fertility treatments. At a minimum, be prepared to talk with direct managers or your human resources point of contact because you’ll need their approval to take time off or coordinate benefits.
But you’ll also need to consider other factors.
If you’re thinking of taking a hybrid work approach, where you’re primarily in the office but working remotely during critical points in an IVF cycle, other people might also need to know why you’re out of the office. Anyone considered critical to ensuring that your job runs smoothly should realistically be kept in the loop.
Additionally, if you have close work friends who you trust and believe will provide much-needed support, you might want to tell them. We can’t stress enough that fertility treatments can be draining — both emotionally and physically.
ASRM’s Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG) agrees about this psychological impact. So, having a solid support system in all aspects of your life can be very helpful.
Resources to help when experiencing infertility or going through fertility treatment
- MHPG. MHPG provides lists of resources you can search by your city, state, or the name of a therapist.
- RESOLVE — The National Infertility Awareness Association: RESOLVE (866-668-2566) offers support groups, professionals, a helpline, and an online support community to help you maintain mental health on your journey to build a family.
But you don’t have to be an open book
Remember that you control the narrative. You can provide general information without sharing all the details. Fertility concerns are a sensitive topic that not everyone is comfortable talking about.
Plus, there’s the added reality that while legal protections against workplace gender discrimination exist, some people have reported feeling like their work ethic or capabilities were questioned once disclosing that they were undergoing fertility treatments.
So, if you’re only comfortable saying you have to undergo medically necessary procedures, leave it at that — and don’t feel pressured to share more. If necessary, get documented support from your healthcare professional.
The TTC process is a rigorous one, but even more so when you’re also battling infertility. While it’s important to cover your bases professionally, you also need to be kind to yourself as you navigate treatment.
Cut back on commitments
Between the physical side effects of fertility drugs and the shifting emotions, you might not be up to maintaining your usual schedule. This is especially true if you’re juggling a full-time job, multiple fertility appointments and procedures, and remembering to take medications.
Don’t feel pressured to maintain your pre-fertility treatment schedule if it’s going to leave you frazzled and exhausted. Taking care of yourself is priority number one!
Reinforce your support network
No matter how you conceive, anyone who’s ever attempted to get pregnant will tell you that having a sympathetic and supportive network can help make the experience more manageable.
You may choose to round up friends and family in your social network who can help you get through this time. It’s also good to connect with fertility treatment support groups so you can talk with someone who knows what you’re going through.
Engage in self-care
You’re going through a rough period, so feel free to pamper yourself just a bit more. Whether self-care looks like booking a massage or having a reality show marathon, you deserve to spend a few moments not being preoccupied with your fertility.
Don’t fall down the digital rabbit hole
If you’re undergoing fertility treatments, you’re already taking one of the most proactive steps possible to achieve your ultimate goal of getting pregnant.
It can be tempting to spend time online looking up details about fertility treatment success rates, plus what early pregnancy symptoms to expect and how to spot them. But this can encourage rumination and spiraling thoughts, which can make an already stressful situation feel worse.
If you have questions about fertility or fertility treatments, talk with your healthcare professional about them instead. After all, they’re the pro!
Don’t underestimate the importance of spending time talking with someone who’s not in your social circle and who can serve as a neutral sounding board. Again, fertility concerns — and, by extension, fertility treatments — can throw you for many emotional loops.
Countless studies have shown that living with infertility can have a serious and long-term impact on your mental health, according to a
Not everyone can take time off from work to accommodate fertility treatments. If you’re able, work with your company’s human resources or benefits director to determine what leave or medical coverage can be applied to your treatments.
While you may need to tell key stakeholders at work what’s going on, don’t feel pressured to share every little detail or tell every single person. It’s important to take care of yourself and make sure you have a strong support system around you during treatment.