Associate Professor, OBGYN
Harvard Medical School
Licensed Therapist & LCSW
RESOLVE Committee Member
As fertility patients, many of us are surprised to learn how hard it is to balance the demands of treatment and work.
First, the sheer number of hours patients devote to treatment is substantial. Our survey data
shows that patients lose 50+ hours in travel and treatment time alone. This happens during the workweek and makes it hard to get on calls, take meetings and do our best work in a team setting.
Treatment not only impinges on our calendar, but also on our emotional wellbeing. Data from over 200 patients at the University of Pennsylvania reveal that 50% of women and 15% of men consider this period “the most upsetting of their lives.” Very few of us can deliver our best work against this backdrop.
As patients, we need to prepare ourselves for balancing both responsibilities. As you’ll see in the next lesson, once a treatment cycle has started, appointments must be kept & treatment can’t be moved.
This is true for everyone involved. For instance, if you’re a man and contributing sperm for intrauterine insemination (or IUI), success rates are higher if you contribute fresh sperm at the right time. Your ability to keep this date will impact the outcome.
To improve the odds you can to do your best work during treatment, give some thought when you plan to begin your first, or next, phase of treatment. If there is a looming deadline at work, or you’re heading into a busy season, you may want to schedule your next cycle for when it passes. Seldom will a month or two delay lower the odds a treatment will work.
Improving the odds treatment will work means making every appointment, taking medications on time and being available for a procedure exactly when it’s required. In the next lesson we’ll walk through how to create space at work to make this happen.
Finally, a debated question is how does stacking stressful commitments impact fertility. Said differently, if a person succeeded in lowering their stress levels, could that improve the odds of success? The data is murky, but for some (certainly not all), reducing anxiety improves fertility outcomes.
In this context, for some, that may mean momentarily lightening our commitments at work while in treatment. For others, who find it soothing to stay closely in engaged at work, that may mean maintaining our normal pace.