Though the traditional career advice has always been to leave your personal woes at the office door — there are some periods of life where that’s, well, impossible. Struggling to conceive when you’re ready to grow your family is one of the most difficult, frustrating and sad experiences that anyone can go through. As a topic that’s starting to lose its taboo label, infertility is something professionals should be encouraged to talk to their employer about.
After all, it’s unlikely you’ll forget your anxiety once the clock strikes 9 a.m.
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You should also not feel alone, since the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 8 couples will battle infertility, making it not only an issue for women, but for men, too. One way to strike up the conversation with higher-ups is to let them know just how much this diagnosis can impact work performance — and better yet, how they can be supportive during this sensitive period. Here, a guide you can forward:
Infertility impacts your finances — greatly
Fertility coverage isn’t something employer are required to offer, which makes the high price tags fall on the shoulder of those trying to get pregnant. As Amanda Lesesne, director at Progyny, a company that provides a one-stop shop for companies to provide fertility coverage for employees, estimates, one round of IVF can cost between $20K and $28. And most couples require two or more to find success.
Because the desire to have children is innate for many, they’ll choke up the change, no matter the expense or sacrifice.
“Many people struggling with infertility will delay buying a home or saving for their future as they are having to use the majority of their savings to afford the chance to get pregnant,” she explains. “In many ways, it feels unfair that you have to fall behind in your financial goals by tens of thousands of dollars to have a baby when most people can just have sex and accomplish the same thing.”
How employers can help: Lesesne urges employees to have a candid meeting with their human resources and explain your situation. Even if you don’t think you’ll have an impact, you could be surprised, since she says 65 percent of companies added fertility coverage at the request of their team members.
Infertility can cause depression
As someone who dealt with infertility personally, Lesesne calls the experience one of the most isolating times of her life. “You feel like a failure for so many reasons but primarily because you can’t do the one thing you are biologically built to do. This can have such a significant impact on you mentally with many feelings of shame, guilt, doubt, and sadness,” she continued.
It wasn’t until she looked back on her own IVF treatments that she realized the mental impact. After three rounds of IVF, she had a positive pregnancy test, sending her and her partner over the moon. However, five weeks in, she started bleeding, 700 miles from home, ultimately resulting in an ectopic pregnancy.
“It’s three years later now, and I still suffer from PTSD from that specific time. I believe that many women who have endured multiple fertility treatments or have experienced loss suffer from episodes of PTSD, anxiety, and depression,” she shares.
How employers can help: Sometimes, you don’t need a mental health day — you need a week. Or the ability to work from home and not deal with chaotic commutes. In addition to talking to a mental health professional, Lesesne suggests talking to your manager so they know what is happening. This gives them the chance to be more understanding and flexible as you heal.
Infertility can lower your confidence
Not getting your dream job when you worked hard for it is disappointing. So is dating someone for a few months only to find out they’re not the right match for you. But for couples who want to have a baby, and are faced with a negative pregnancy test every single month, sometimes for years, it’s like being told the worst news of your life over and over again.
“Every month that it is unsuccessful, every insensitive comment about ‘you’re young don’t worry’, and every baby shower that leaves you longing, they all chip away at your confidence,” Lesesne continues. “No doubt this follows you into the workplace. Do you raise your hand for the next big project? Do you ask for the raise? Do you ask for the promotion? The answer is that you probably don’t because it is difficult to believe in yourself when your body is failing you.”
And because you’re already under a tremendous amount of pressure to reproduce, your head isn’t exactly in the game, all the time. This can lead to feeling disconnected from everything around you — deadlines, meetings and all.
How employers can help: Offer employees a more balanced routine when they’re dealing with infertility so they can be out of the office when they need to. Lesesne notes with all of the doctor’s appointments and terrible days, leniency goes a long way. And if you can, find someone in the office you can confide in.
“Infertility can unconsciously knock down your confidence at work and it’s critical to surround yourself with people that will help you build up that confidence at home and in the workplace,” she adds.
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