By Kate Brian, journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility
One of the practical difficulties when you’re going through fertility treatment can be juggling your job and your visits to the clinic. Knowing exactly how much time to take off and when can cause problems, especially if you don’t have a sympathetic employer.
Before you start treatment, it is a good idea to discuss what will be involved with the team who are looking after you. They will be able to tell you how many visits to the clinic you will need to make, and when these are likely to be. If you are going to need regular visits to a local clinic for scans during the early stages of treatment, find out about the clinic opening hours and how quickly you can be seen as it may be possible to fit these in before you go to work in the morning which can make life much easier.
Women sometimes worry about whether they should go back to work during the two week wait after treatment, but there is generally no need to take this time off unless there is a specific reason for doing so. It can be beneficial to keep busy when you are waiting to find out whether your treatment has been successful, and working is unlikely to have any kind of negative impact. However, some people do feel that they’d rather not be at work during the two week wait and this is a matter of individual choice.
Whatever you decide, you will probably need to take at least a few days off work during the treatment cycle. You may choose to take this as annual leave, and if you are having treatment overseas, you may be able to book time off in advance and tell your colleagues and employer that you are going away on holiday. This can make everything much easier, as no one will ask questions about why you are off work – but it can be tricky if you don’t know exactly when you’ll need to be travelling.
Some employers like staff to book holiday leave a long time ahead, and if this is the case you may either need to take the time as sick leave or tell your employer why you are going to need to be more flexible about your holiday arrangements. Fertility problems are very personal, and you may not want your employer and your colleagues knowing about them. If you are worried, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your family doctor as they will usually be willing to back you up if you need to take time off work as sick leave during your fertility treatment.
A survey carried out by Infertility Network UK in 2006 found that nearly a third of fertility patients chose not to tell their employers about their treatment, and that one of the main reasons for this was anxiety about the consequences for their careers. In fact, some employers do now have enlightened policies when it comes to fertility and will allow staff time off for treatment, or give them the option of swapping shifts or taking additional unpaid leave if necessary.
Perhaps the most important thing is to think about how you are going to deal with any time you need off work during your fertility treatment in advance and to put some plans in place. They may have to change along the way, but what you want to avoid is causing yourself additional stress; going through treatment is much easier if you are comfortable with your arrangements with work.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.