Infertility

Balancing work and fertility treatment

It is often hard to balance full time work and treatment for infertility. Across a wide range of jobs, including a teacher, doctor, nurse, nanny, local government manager, city lawyer and journalist, combining treatment and work was difficult. Managing the timing of treatment appointments during a working week was tricky, especially for those who preferred not to tell work colleagues.

Belinda found that while the treatment schedule worked out perfectly for her first cycle of IUI, for her second it was really hard to manage, even though the clinic tried to help. She also had to be careful about lifting, while trying to behave normally around colleagues.
Catherine, a journalist, found it so difficult combining the demands of her job and treatment, that she took a long period of time off during her first cycle of IVF.
Others described difficulties around being able to take time off work at critical stages during treatment. Some said they felt guilty about their treatment. Sometimes women felt that they were put in the uncomfortable position of having to lie to their colleagues. However it was important to many couples to do everything they could to give themselves the best possible chance of success.
Fiona, a teacher, was conscious of the disruption it caused to school management but her colleagues knew what she was going through and were kind and supportive.
Managing appointments and work was easier for those who worked part-time or on flexible hours. Sandra said she had been lucky with her employers and that now she was working part-time she could make up her hours if she needed to. Saskia, a teacher, was able to manage her full time work and treatment because her clinic was open at 7am and was just ten minutes drive from home.
Another difficulty of balancing work and treatment was feeling up to the job while coping with the side effects of treatment and drugs. Belinda, who had been through a couple of cycles of IUI at the time of the interview felt exhausted from her treatment and struggled with her 14 hour days as a nurse. Mary was a lawyer in the City of London when she went through her first IVF treatment. She bled frequently through her pregnancy and although she tried to keep working, it was very stressful. Her boss was very supportive and she was eventually given the rest of her pregnancy off work. Mike and his partner had anticipated how difficult it would be to combine work and treatment and his wife had quit work while she went through treatment.
In addition to the practical difficulties of combining work and treatment, it was also sometimes difficult to perform as normal at work because of the emotional side effects (see ‘IVF & ICSI’ and ‘Difficult parts of IVF & ICSI treatment’). Even without the side effects of hormonal treatment the whole process could be very draining emotionally. As Belinda said, “It is just so draining. But it just takes everything out of you”. 
 
People understandably worried about whether their employers would think they were less committed to their work and some concluded that it was better to tell their boss, at least, what was going on. Carol decided to tell one employer, thinking he might be sympathetic because his wife was a midwife, and he was very understanding.
 
Many people preferred not to tell colleagues about their treatment but this could, in turn, increase their sense of isolation,

Last reviewed July 2017.

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