In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week we held a special conversation around how to navigate work and fertility treatments. Here at Progyny we understand that the fertility journey can impact many different aspects of your life and believe that individuals and couples deserve to have support as they navigate treatment and their careers. Our panelists shared insights from their personal family building journeys along with advice for how to manage your schedule, share your journey, and find support. We hope this conversation helps you feel a little more supported as you navigate your own journey and know that you are not alone.
This webinar featured:
- Selena Leneus, Director of Member Services at Progyny
- Cassandra Pratt, SVP of People at Progyny
- Belissa Savery, Senior Director of Enterprise Partnerships at The Mom Project
Sharing Your Journey in the Workplace
The fertility journey can be a lonely experience which is why it’s important to build your village. That village can be your family or friends, or you may even want to include someone from your workplace, who can understand the difficulty of balancing work and family building.
When looking for support within your company, it is important to begin conversations with your manager or supervisor if you feel comfortable. Since your manager or supervisor will be the one managing your workload and time off, it may be helpful to begin an open conversation with them about your plans. If you are not comfortable having this conversation with your manager first, you can certainly go to your human resources department. They will be able to answer any questions that come up about your benefit and how your benefit ties in with your leave policy or other medical benefits that could be critical to you in your journey. In addition to offering this information, they can also be a good advocate for you when you decide to have a conversation with your manager or supervisor.
Outside of having communication with your manager or HR team, your organization may have support groups or employee resource groups that you can engage with. These employee resource groups can help create a community for people currently going through fertility treatments or who are thinking about going through fertility treatments and be a place to share information to support each other and help answer questions that you may have.
The fact is that fertility journeys aren’t as broadly discussed in the workplace as much as things like maternity leave. There was a time where individuals feared sharing that they were pregnant in the workplace because of discrimination or retaliation. It seems that fertility might be that new fear and realistically that fear has manifested itself as a result of our experiences as individuals in the workplace. The more you can communicate with managers or the HR team, the more your workplace can be there for you and work out a plan that will work for you on your journey.
Managing Your Schedule
While navigating fertility treatment it can be challenging to balance your day-to-day job and responsibilities along with the various appointments. The first step to take when managing your schedule is to block off your calendar and identify the best time of day for you to attend your appointments. Speak to your clinic or healthcare provider to understand which appointments can take more of a physical or emotional toll. Many clinics now have appointment scheduling tools and may offer appointments later in the day that may fit better with your schedule. Managing your schedule and blocking off times, or opening conversations with those around you at work, can help you avoid having to explain each time you have to show up late or leave a little early. Sometimes there are unpredictable visits that happen last minute, and that openness with those who work alongside you can help relieve the stress of work when already dealing with the stress of fertility treatments.
Many know it’s hard to balance both work and being on the path to parenthood. In a journey that is so unpredictable it’s important to allow yourself grace and patience. There are so many variables that go into the fertility journey, so no two journeys will look the same. It is alright to prioritize yourself during this time and focus on your mental and physical well-being. Your company may offer additional resources such as mental health support that can also help you during this time.
Going through fertility treatments can be unchartered waters for most. Here are some helpful tips that came out of our discussion:
- Don’t assume you need to take paid time off (PTO) for your appointments
Always ask about your options and don’t assume you need to take PTO for any time you need off, whether that is for appointments or if you need time after more difficult appointments. This journey is filled with good and bad news so allow yourself to take the time you need to recover. By having open conversations with people from work, there will be more flexibility and less questions when the unexpected happens.
- Find appointment times that work for your schedule
Identify if you are a morning person or more of an afternoon/evening person. It is important to schedule these appointments around what works for you and your treatment.
- Don’t forget about things outside of work that make you happy
Try not to neglect the things in your life that you are passionate about. It is easy to allow this to fall to the side when juggling work and fertility treatments, but this can help support your physical and emotional health during your journey.
- Give yourself grace
Everyone’s journey is different so do what you need to do to prioritize your mental and physical health. Give yourself grace and go easy on yourself when there are difficult days, or just days when you aren’t feeling 100% yourself.
Questions from the Audience
1. Any advice on how to start the conversation with a manager?
We recognize it can be extremely difficult to start this conversation with your manager and that everyone’s situation is different. We want to provide you with tools that can help you feel more prepared for the conversation ahead. There are two possible routes. If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, let them know that you are trying to start a family and the path that you are going to utilize is fertility treatment. During this conversation share what you know and be candid that there are also a lot of unknowns. Speak to them about how you might want to keep the dialogue going or provide updates.
If you don’t have as comfortable of a relationship with your manager, you can approach the conversation in a more general way, letting them know that you will be going through medical treatment. If you want to have another advocate join the conversation, you can include an ally from the company or somebody from your HR team. Sometimes, that can be helpful to have HR aware of what’s going on and serve as a resource to your manager to ensure they can support you.
In these conversations it’s alright to set boundaries and also highlight what you need, or don’t need, during the process. Set these expectations and allow the other person in the conversation to know that you will give updates when you are ready to do so.
2. In addition to the day-to-day hardship of balancing fertility treatments and work, I worry about how it may impact my career long term. Do you have advice for someone who may be going through these fertility treatments but is nervous about losing career momentum at their company?
We don’t usually decide to go through a family building journey overnight. Take some time to understand what you might need to prioritize and identify someone you trust that can help support your work if needed. There’s a chance this journey can lead to parenthood, so you do want to consider the long-term support and environment of your company. If you are at a company where you feel like you’ll be held back by taking this next step it may be time to look for a different company. If an organization makes you feel like your professional growth will suffer as a result of your personal growth, then it might be time for you to find a company that will advocate for you and where you can thrive both professionally and personally.
3. I’ve heard some of these treatments need recovery time/may be painful, which could require even more time off? How can I explain this to my manager without feeling like I’m taking too much time off?
These fertility treatments are medical treatments, and you will be having mildly invasive surgeries which will require some recovery time. These treatments impact each person differently. The recovery time might be very quick, or the recovery time might be a few days. As long as you let your manager know ahead of time that you’re going to go in for a surgical procedure and you’re not sure what the recovery time will look like, you should allow yourself to take the time you need. It’s also important to say these are medical procedures and not force yourself back to work when you’re not ready.
4. My coworker keeps asking why I’m out of the office regularly but I’m not comfortable sharing with them. What do you recommend I say to people inquiring about my schedule and availability who aren’t aware of my situation?
It’s okay to say “I don’t want to talk about it” or “it’s personal.” The important question to ask yourself during this process is what are you comfortable sharing and with whom? If they feel entitled to ask the question, you should feel just as comfortable enough to answer it how you would like to.
We acknowledge these are tough conversations to have while also going through your fertility journey. As a Progyny member you can always reach out to your dedicated Patient Care Advocate (PCA) for support while navigating these experiences. While this journey may feel isolating at times, it is important to have a community of support and we are here for you each step of the way.
If you have any other questions related to this webinar, please don’t hesitate to reach out to email@example.com. If you are a Progyny member and have any questions about your fertility benefit or coverage, please call 888.597.5065.