Podcasts

Work and Infertility

From blood draws and ultrasounds to tests and procedures, navigating fertility treatments can feel a lot like having a second job. In this episode of "Dear Infertility," we take real questions from real fertility patients about juggling work and infertility and share research-backed tips and strategies for how to manage it all. To learn more about Rescripted and to join our free fertility support community, head to our website at Rescripted.com.

Published on March 8, 2022

Rescripted _Ep7_Juggling Work & IVF: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Rescripted _Ep7_Juggling Work & IVF: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Hi, I'm Kristyn Hodgdon, an IVF mom, current IVF patient, and co-founder of Rescripted.

Ali Domar:
And I'm Dr. Ali Domar, a thirty-four-year fertility industry veteran, psychologist, and expert in the mind-body relationship between stress and infertility.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Welcome to Dear Infertility, the first-ever podcast that doubles as an advice column for those dealing with the daily stressors related to infertility and pregnancy loss.

Ali Domar:
We're here to answer your real-life questions related to the mental and emotional toll of infertility, while providing research-backed tactics and strategies for overcoming these dilemmas.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Now, let's dive in and help you find calm on this stressful journey.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the Dear Infertility Podcast! I'm Kristyn, your host, and I'm here with Dr. Ali Domar. Hi, Ali!

Ali Domar:
Hey, how are you?

Kristyn Hodgdon:
I'm doing well. Thank you. Today, we are going to talk about juggling work and fertility treatments.

Ali Domar:
Huh!

Kristyn Hodgdon:
And as someone who's been there, you know, fertility treatments, even IUIs, especially IVF, can feel like a second job. So how do you sort of balance it all? We had a ton of questions from the community pouring in about this topic, so I'll defer to you. How, how can you stay focused at work when all you can think about is IVF?

Ali Domar:
You know, it's a tough one. I mean, I've had so many patients ask me, hey, can I go out on disability for the month? Would you sign my forms for me to go out and disability for a month, because I just don't think I can do both? And honestly, I wish I could, but going through an IVF cycle and the stress associated with it doesn't really reach the definition of disability. And so, you know, I think I've once in my career signed off in a patient who was a horrible history of depression and basically couldn't get a bed, and that that actually met the criteria. But in general, I think that, you know, it's funny when I before I got to Boston IVF, I was the psychologist at the hospital, and so I was a psychologist before the actual hospital-based IVF program, which isn't there anymore. And every couple, in those days, had to see either myself or the social worker before doing a cycle, and they also had to attend a two-hour class on how to reduce stress during an IVF cycle. And one of the things we talked about was how to handle work. And I said, So if you know you're doing an IVF cycle, that's OK, let's say you either want to do a cycle in like March or April, OK, so that's March or April, and your boss comes in and says, OK, you're in charge of this huge project, and it's due April 2nd. And I say, you know what? Don't do a March cycle.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right.

Ali Domar:
Because you're just setting yourself up. I mean, no matter what your age is, one month is not going to make a huge difference, and the stress, and the angst, and the agony of doing some huge project at the same time, doing an IVF cycle just doesn't make sense. So if you know you've got some massive work thing coming up, do the cycle the month later, because then you can really focus on your IVF cycle. And counter to that, if you have some control and you know, you know that you have to do a project either in March or April and you decide that you'll do the project in April, then you can do the cycle in March and don't volunteer for things if you know, you know, most of us who want to do well at work and want to be seen as doing, you know, being a good dooby by our boss, you know, don't volunteer if you know that's going to be during your cycle. So if you have any control whatsoever over your job, try to make the month of your cycle as easy as possible. And you know, and obviously, most of us don't have control over our jobs. But if there's anything you can do, I would try to do that.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
That's great advice. I did not take that advice. I actually had to cancel a work trip or get out of a work trip because my retrieval was going to fall the same week, and as you know, IVF can be unpredictable. I didn't know what day it was going to be, and I said, you know what? I can't risk my retrieval falling around the same time, and so I ended up going to HR and then going to my boss. But that actually begs the next question which we received, which is should I tell my boss that I'm doing fertility treatments?

Ali Domar:
Ok, I get asked that at least once a week as well. You know, I think I can't say yes or no, because that's such a blanket thing, I think you sort of have to sit back and A, think about who your boss is and B, what's your relationship with your boss and see, you know, do you want your boss to know? Because there are some positions where, you know, I know this is awful to say, but women are discriminated against if they, if the boss knows that they're trying to build their family. And so I think you need to think about your, the climate of your job situation and whether or not it's a company that will be open and embrace your family building plans versus the fact that you may get passed over even if you aren't pregnant because they know you're trying.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Well, that's the thing. It's not, it's not just a medical condition, it's, it's basically admitting to your boss that you're trying to have a baby, which then.

Ali Domar:
Right. Which ...

Kristyn Hodgdon:
With pregnancy and maternity leave and all that.

Ali Domar:
Right. And it's not easy for a boss to have somebody be pregnant and out of maternity leave, I mean, it's no, I mean, obviously, you're legally protected. So you know what I said to a patient of mine a couple of years ago, I said, well, tell me about your boss, is your boss a twenty-five-year-old guy who's like dating every woman in your city? Or is your boss a forty-seven-year-old woman with five-year-old twins?

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right.

Ali Domar:
Because, you know, and I don't mean to sound biased or anything else, but a 25-year-old guy may not understand infertility, may not really get it, just sort of thinks you just pay some money and get a baby versus, you know, if your boss is forty-seven and has twins and they're three or four, it's a really good chance that she went through infertility, maybe went through IVF, maybe even went through donor egg, so you really, you know, I remember talking about this with my patients and she said, you know, I just realized because my boss has triplets, I'm like, well, there's a pretty good chance of your boss's triplets, there's a pretty good chance your boss and his partner went through infertility. So I think it really depends on one's relationship with one superior or one supervisor or boss. It's a tricky one. It can't be sort of, it has to be handled on an individual basis. Now, you have to remember that infertility is classified as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and you can't be discriminated against based upon having infertility. And so you're entitled to take time off, sick time, et cetera, for infertility treatment just you would for treatment for any other medical condition.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right. That's why I ended up, I had a really good relationship with my boss, but I did end up going to HR first when it came to the work trip because I just wanted to, you know, cover myself just in case and have it, have it be known that this was due to a medical condition and diagnosis and not just me not wanting to go on the work trip.

Ali Domar:
Well, you also have to be careful if you choose not to tell people and you're out a lot.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yeah.

Ali Domar:
They make, make their own conclusions. I had a patient about 10 years ago who, you know, was going in for her workup, and so she was missing meetings a lot. And then she did an IUI cycle and had to get monitored and had to go in, and so she was sort of at the last minute, constantly going to the doctor, and after about two months, a coworker came up to her and said, you know, I figured I was going out with you and I'm so, so sorry. My patient is like, oh, thank you. And she says, yeah, this must be really hard on you and your family, and the coworker went on and on, my patient started to think maybe, and the co-worker thought she had leukemia.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Oh my goodness.

Ali Domar:
And that she was like going in for chemo or radiation or something. So you have to be careful if you don't want to tell people and you're gone a lot for doctor's appointments, they may wonder what's wrong with you or, or if you don't it's for .... they may think you're out interviewing somewhere else.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right. Well, that was a question from one of our community members. She said she's running out of excuses at this point, any suggestions for kind of how to handle coming in late and missing work due to doctor's appointments, but not wanting to kind of divulge what you're going through?

Ali Domar:
Yeah, but my most of my patients, if they don't want to say, they just say to their superior, you know, I'm under treatment with a physician for a non-life-threatening medical condition, you know, hopefully this is temporary and it will be over soon, but I will be needing to go in for testing and procedures on a fairly regular basis.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
That's a copy and paste into an email.

Ali Domar:
Copy and paste to an email. And you know, most infertility doctors will write, you know, notes excusing them if you need to get a note, unfortunately, you know, their stationery does tend to say fertility specialists, so getting a note from your doctor might give it away, or maybe you could ask your OB-GYN to write you a note because then they won't be as suspicious.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yeah.

Ali Domar:
I mean again, but this also goes to and I don't know if we're going to talk about this in another podcast, is this idea that we don't want to tell anybody, that were going through infertility.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right.

Ali Domar:
And the whole shame, embarrassment factor, and, you know, I've been doing this for a long time and I was kind of hoping by now. And you know, most of my patients don't want anyone to know, and it still breaks my heart because you can get so much support from the world, the community, friends, family, if you're willing to make yourself a little bit vulnerable, but it's a very personal decision. I would never push anyone to tell their boss they're going through infertility.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yeah, definitely a personal choice. So we got another sort of more general question about just any strategies or tips for how to manage stress levels while trying to do it all, work, IVf, real life, the whole nine yards.

Ali Domar:
Work, life, and fertility. Well, you know, in fact, that's why Dr. Elizabeth Guero and I wrote the app Ferticalm because, you know, we see, well, that we zoom with our patients now for forty-five minutes a week and, you know, a patient will come into session, says, oh my god, you're not going to believe it happened at work, you're not going to believe what my mother in law said, you got to hear this fight my husband and I had. And you know, that's why we wrote the app because we came up with situations like if someone says to you at work, you've been missing a lot of meetings lately, you get to shape up, there's actually a script in the app for how to handle conversations like that, because, yeah, awkward things happen. And I don't think on my feet, I think most people, if they're trying to keep this to themselves, they don't, and the stress is insane. I mean, I've said this before, that, you know, women going through infertility have the same stress levels as women going through cancer, aids or heart disease. And we now know that COVID has been probably somewhat less of a stressor to our patient population than infertility is. And so I think the world needs to understand how stressful infertility is, and it sort of permeates everything you're doing. And so you know what I said to a patient yesterday morning who's sort of balancing the work life and fertility, I said, the first thing you need to do when you wake up every morning is think to yourself, what do I need?

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yeah.

Ali Domar:
What can I do for myself today? If you have a partner, what can your partner do for you? If you have a coworker who knows what you're going through, what do you need? Do you need to ask for help and you can need, to meet some of your needs yourself, and you need to ask other people to meet your needs, but it's hard. And yeah, infertility is a full time job, and patients ask me all the time if they should just quit their job so that they can really pursue infertility treatment full time. And, you know, A, they probably need the job for the money or the insurance to pursue infertility treatment and B, if you're not working, I worry you're just going to basically sit at home and watch your follicles grow.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right.

Ali Domar:
And I think one of the good things about working is that somewhat can distract you from infertility.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yes, I definitely felt that way. I kind of dove headfirst into work, but everyone's different, some people get distracted and can't focus on work during this time. So, you know, it's kind of a personal choice in that way. But yeah, it's, it's tough to balance it all. I think, I would also recommend kind of thinking about what you can take off your plate. Because I remember my RE said to me, you know, if acupuncture stressing you out, that's kind of defeating the purpose. Or if you're pressuring yourself to clean your house, like, does that really need to get done today? And you know, I know that we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves, but some things might need to fall to the wayside during this process.

Ali Domar:
But it comes down to, you know, I learned to spend my honeymoon, my husband and I were in Greece in this beautiful cottage on the water, and he went out for a run or something, and when he came back, I was like, I had one of those yellow legal pads and I was writing stuff down, he goes what are you doing? And I said, I'm writing down all the things I need to do when we get back home. He's like, what's on the list? I said, well, I have to write thank you notes, and I need to buy accent pillows for our new couch. And I sort of went through and he goes, you need to separate the stuff you have to do or the stuff we have to do, which is write thank you notes versus stuff you'd like to get done, which was the accent pillows.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right.

Ali Domar:
Which actually took five years. But I think as one is going through infertility and working and, you know, trying to keep up with their life, you need to that to-do list that you have in your head or on your phone or on a pad of paper, you need to make two lists the stuff that has to get done, like putting dishes in the dishwasher, washing dishes versus stuff you'd like to get done. And you know, I think that's true of most of our sort of day-to-day activities. I think we, you know, one thing I tell my patients is when you write out your to do list, I mean, I have to to do lists. I have my work to do list and my home to do list and try to enter space like, you know, we've got a vacuum the house, but we also get to crack open that Godiva box of chocolates or whatever. So everything that you have to do put in a sort of a want to do.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Right, without sort of getting rid of the things that bring you joy, I would say.

Ali Domar:
No, I'm saying the want to do is the stuff that brings you joy. I mean, there is a Ziggy, Ziggy cartoon years ago, I have a slide of it somewhere, which shows a to do list. And it says, number one, breathe, number two, breathe. I mean, and I think we forget that because we're just so go, go, go.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Absolutely, we are, and it's, it's tough. So give yourself grace during this time, you know, you don't have to get every single little thing done. Sometimes just, I saw something that said sometimes just surviving is enough.

Ali Domar:
Yeah. And I think with this pandemic, I mean, I think the problem was we all thought we only had to survive for a few weeks or months.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yes.

Ali Domar:
And yesterday, you know, now it's two years and I think people are are needing to bring more joy into their life.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Absolutely.

Ali Domar:
So I actually said yesterday to a patient who's just having a really hard time, I said, think back to when you were eight, what were the passions in your life? And she stopped and she said, I loved to dance. I'm like, start dancing.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Yeah, why not? You're never too old and it's never too late.

Ali Domar:
Exactly. Yeah.

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Well, thank you, Ali. This has been so helpful and thank you all for listening, until next time.

Ali Domar:
Bye!

Kristyn Hodgdon:
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Dear Infertility. We hope it helps you find calm during this incredibly stressful time. Whatever you're currently struggling with, Rescripted is here to hold your hand every step of the way. If you like today's episode and want to stay up to date on our podcast, don't forget to click Subscribe. To find this episode, show notes, resources and more, head to Rescripted.com, and be sure to join our free fertility support community while you're there.

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