Associate Professor, OBGYN
Harvard Medical School
Family Planning Coordinator
The L.G.B.T. Community Center
For fertility patients, it can be hard to compartmentalize work and treatment. Let’s cover the ways in which the two can feel inextricably linked, both in theory and reality.
First, most patients are terrified that if it comes out they’re even trying to have a baby, they’ll be marginalized or fired. If a colleague lets you in on this, they’re probably taking a real leap of faith, hoping that you can be discreet and keep it to yourself.
Next, patients need their jobs, now more than ever. Many of us feel like we’re good at our jobs and during a period of turmoil and disappointment, work can keep our confidence up, or at least distract us from the pain.
That, and work helps pay the bills. Below we plot the cumulative odds and cost of having a single birth through IVF. As you can see, doing enough cycles to lift the odds can push costs into the six figures. Thus, having a steady, healthy income can make the difference when trying to have a child through treatment.
In recent years our study data has shown employees who had their fertility treatment covered by their employer viewed themselves as far more committed to their company than they’d previously been.
What’s more, if those treatments succeeded, the vast majority of these employees returned to work after the birth of their child.
Treatment can, and often does, interfere with work schedules.
Many fertility patients will have doctor’s appointments in the mornings and injections at the same time each night. Generally speaking, that means patients can’t travel because they have to be at these appointments no matter what.
While many patients can’t travel during treatment, others are forced to. Some may need to go to a specialist out of town, while others may need to meet an egg donor or surrogate out of state, and be there for critical appointments.
Fertility clinics are notorious for running late in the mornings, and there is nothing the patient can do about it. By the time an appointment is over, patients may be fighting mid-morning rush hour traffic. Whenever possible, it can help to shift meetings and calls to later in the day.
Next, fertility patients sometimes need to take personal calls at work.Those calls can bring critical news, like whether the doctor thinks they’re pregnant. Or time sensitive news, like the need to interview a sought-after gestational carrier.
Do your best to understand that this person must keep their phone on and answer it. They may need privacy and there’s a good chance they’ll need a moment or two afterwards to process what they’ve heard, call a partner, or take a walk around the block.
As we mentioned, many fertility treatments require some sort of intervention (like IUI) or procedure (like IVF). If the procedure doesn’t happen exactly when it’s supposed to, the treatment cycle could be ruined. These procedures can’t be moved or rescheduled.
What’s more, in many cases, there’s often little advanced, precise guidance when exactly the procedure will happen. Often a day or two is the best one can expect.
In some cases, especially during an IVF egg retrieval, the recovery time can be a day or more. A partner may need to stay home and help during the recovery.