Finding Your Voice: How to Be Your Own Fertility Advocate

smiling red haired woman

Written by Amanda Lesesne, Vice President, Business Development at Progyny

For the last seven years, my husband and I have been living in the world of fertility acronyms — TTC, IUI, IVF, BFP, BFN, PUPO – the list goes on for a collection of letters I never thought I would need to know. Our journey to have a family has been filled with twists, turns, challenges, despair, and moments of hope. If you are traveling some version of this path, you know how all those things can go together. I’ve learned a lot in this journey but one thing that took some trial and error was learning how to step into my voice and power as an infertility patient.

An infertility diagnosis can be incredibly overwhelming and it’s something most can’t anticipate. Most patients know very little on the topic unless a friend or family member has had a similar experience. I was 27 when we found out it would be difficult for us to conceive. I didn’t have any friends or family to turn to, so everything I learned was from my reproductive endocrinologist and Google searches. This immediately put me in a passive position because everything I was learning was foreign. Looking back, I wish I had the tools necessary to learn how to be less passive in this journey.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned along my journey:

  1. Knowledge is power. It’s okay that you don’t know and understand everything right off the bat. Luckily, there are so many resources online that can help you.
    • Books: There are so many awesome books about infertility or that share personal infertility journeys. I would recommend, It Starts with the Egg by Rebecca Fett, The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs, and Conceivability: What I Learned Exploring the Frontiers of Fertility by Elizabeth Katkin.
    • Podcasts: Listening to other people’s journeys can make you feel less alone (and occasionally bring some humor to a really tough situation). Here are some of my favorites: This is Infertility, Infertile Mafia, InfertileAF.
    • Youtube: Many people have documented their experience in a vlog and it can be helpful to understand how others have navigated challenges.
  2. If you’re comfortable, share your story. Infertility is common—more common than you think. Chances are someone you know has gone through fertility treatment or is going through it. Talk to them about their experience, what they would recommend, and what they’d do differently. You may find comfort in speaking to someone who “gets it.” You can also look to online support groups from Resolve or an employee resource group. If there isn’t a resource group available, this may be the right time to start one.
  3. Find the right provider. Be open, honest and vocal with your doctor. Be prepared and do your research before your appointments. Trust your intuition and voice your frustration if things don’t seem to be going the way you envisioned. The whole process can be intimidating, but ultimately, you and your doctor should be a team. Trust your gut on this one. It’s likely you will both know if it is time to move in a different direction. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to make a change.
  4. Find your comfort zone at work. In the first few years, I did not share any information with my immediate boss or coworkers. It wasn’t until we had a traumatic ectopic pregnancy that I spoke with my boss. This situation will be different for everyone, but I am thankful that my boss provided me the room I needed to heal physically and mentally. Sharing my experience really helped me become my own advocate for what I needed at work and not feel bashful asking for it. For more tips on how to handle fertility treatment at work, check out Infertility & the Workplace: How to Deal in the 9-5.
  5. Look into your company’s fertility coverage. Your employer may provide some sort of benefit for fertility treatment. If you aren’t comfortable asking your boss or HR lead, call your insurance carrier directly to ask. If there is no coverage, use this as an opportunity to advocate for change in your organization. We know that 65% of employers offering fertility coverage did so because an employee asked for it. In fact, we can help you jump start this conversation.

An infertility diagnosis is physically, financially, and emotionally draining. And, even in the really tough moments, you can take back some control. Knowledge is power and you can be your own best advocate.

You got this.