Deciding How Much to Disclose to Your Boss About Your Fertility Journey
Depending on your particular situation and fertility journey, there may come a time when fertility treatments start interfering with your work life. Between doctor appointments, surgical procedures, monitoring, medication side effects, and self-injections, the time and effort required by fertility treatments can make it feel like a full-time job all on its own.
The large commitment and intensity of fertility treatments can make it difficult to maintain a distinct separation between work and personal life.1 There are two ways that most patients recommend navigating work life during fertility treatments: either continue keeping your fertility journey a private experience, or inform your boss or coworkers about your fertility struggles.1
Should You Tell Your Boss About Your Fertility Treatment?
Whether or not you disclose personal information about your fertility treatments to your boss or colleagues is entirely up to you. One report showed that approximately half of people choose not to tell their coworkers about their infertility.2 However, it is important to note that depending on your workplace, there may be some cons to not mentioning your treatment, such as a lack of understanding or support from coworkers.2
Coming up with reasons for missing work or having to take time off due to fertility treatments can also be stressful, and some patients may feel relief being honest with their coworkers.1 Having your employer know about your treatment can make it much easier for you to adjust work schedules, work from home, or come up with other solutions that can reduce your stress while you still remain committed to your job.1
Despite this fact, you still may not want to talk about infertility with your employer — you might not feel comfortable discussing such a personal matter with your boss, or maybe you have decided to keep your infertility experience private from others in general.3 Whatever reason you have is valid, and you are under no obligation to reveal the details of your fertility journey to your employer.3
Some women may choose to not disclose their infertility out of fear of jeopardizing their job, or facing discrimination or other negative attitudes in the workplace.1 Although the backlash employees face from their employers can vary, it is important to note that women dealing with an infertility diagnosis at work have established legal protections — the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans With Disabilities Act protect women who have suffered from miscarriage or are undergoing infertility treatments, and can require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees struggling with infertility.1,4,5
But at the end of the day, it is up to you to use your judgment to decide whether to be open about your fertility treatments. Whatever you decide will be the right choice for your individual situation — there is no right or wrong answer. Here are some tips on who to talk to, what to say, and how much to disclose to your employer depending on whichever path you choose.
Who to Talk to About Your Infertility
It might not always be the best option to go straight to your direct boss to discuss your fertility treatments.1 Speaking with a human resources representative, coworker, or indirect manager may help relieve some of the stress of going to your boss, and make you feel more supported in your place of work.1 Talking to human resources can be especially helpful, as the department may have other resources and information regarding infertility benefits and your options for taking leave.1 You may also want to bring it up with other groups of people at your workplace depending on who you interact with and the relationships you have with your coworkers.1
Making a Plan to Speak with Your Boss
Although bringing up fertility treatments with your boss can be a daunting task, rest assured that many employees are surprised by the amount of support they receive in response.2 Before speaking with your boss, human resources department, or coworkers, it is important to draw up a plan of what exactly you want to disclose.1 Having a plan can give you confidence before bringing up such an important and sensitive subject, while also making it easier for your employer to give you the support you need.1
This means you will have to figure out what your treatment exactly involves, how much time you might need off, and how many early-morning clinic visits you might need.6 Factor in the physical or emotional stress of treatment that could make you distracted from work, or require you to further modify your schedule.6 Take a realistic and holistic look at your situation, and come up with best- and worst-case scenarios for the course of your treatment that might impact your time at work.6 It might help to speak with your doctor beforehand to learn what your treatment process will entail.2
Next, come up with concrete ideas for how you can make up for time lost from work due to your fertility treatments.6 This might mean staying later from work some days, having a coworker cover for you, or working from home — decide what options works best for your situation and your employer.6 It can also help if you map out your fertility treatment schedule and your work schedule side-by-side, plan out your personal time off, and plan your fertility treatments to avoid busier times of your work year.1 Having this clear and thorough plan beforehand can make it easier to have a productive and professional conversation with your employer.’
Whatever your plan may be, remember that it is possible to undergo treatment while still maintaining a career. Countless patients have succeeded in achieving this balance between trying to start a family while working, and come out at the other end of this process with both a healthy child and thriving career.
How to Navigate Fertility Treatment Without Telling Your Boss
You only have to share details of your fertility treatment on a level that you feel comfortable with — you don’t have to mention that you are specifically dealing with infertility at all.3 If this is the case, then you can explain to your employer that you are dealing with a serious medical issue that is not life-threatening.3 You should also say that your condition will not affect your ability to continue working, though you might need some extra flexibility with your working hours due to doctors appointments and treatment scheduling.3 Express your continued commitment to your job by saying that although you might need some leeway in the coming weeks, these changes will be temporary and you anticipate returning to your full commitments in the near future.1
During your conversation with your boss, keep it simple, present your plan, and refrain from expressing too much emotion, while remaining open to suggestions and questions from your boss.1 It might help to have a few notes or bullet points of what you want to say, or maybe have a script that you can practice from before you speak with your boss.1
Today’s Parent offers an example of what you can say if you want to remain vague about your fertility treatments: “I’ll be having a number of appointments for medical reasons over the next few weeks and I’m going to do my best to be on time, but there is a possibility that I might be late sometimes. I want to make sure you know that so you can schedule accordingly.”6
How to Talk to Your Boss About Your Fertility Treatment
If you decide that you are comfortable revealing more specific details to your boss, you may want to lay out your anticipated treatment plan while mentioning that things may change down the line and you will need some flexibility.1
Here is an example from My Fertility Coach of how an employee discussed her IVF treatment with her boss:
“I need to let you know I’m currently trying to have a baby through IVF. It requires a lot of morning appointments. I may be later than usual on these days. The nurses call me with test results which is why I need to step out for private phone calls. Sometime next week, I’ll be out unexpectedly for a procedure [egg retrieval] and then a few days later, again for a follow up procedure [transfer]. Unfortunately, I don’t have control over these dates.
I’ve taken a look at what is going on in my schedule and here’s the plan I’ve come up with to make sure everything is accounted for…here’s what I think will need to get pushed back…and here’s my back up plan for the scheduled meetings in the event I can’t be there…”
Discussing something as personal as infertility at your workplace can be daunting and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be that way.1 You might be surprised by the amount of support and positivity you receive, as well as the relief you feel at not having to go through your journey alone.1 Regardless of how much you choose to disclose, you still deserve respect and fair treatment from your boss as you work together to address the temporary changes to your work life during your fertility treatments.1