Fertility and the Workplace

When you’re deep in the middle of fertility treatment it can feel like a never ending juggle. Squeezing appointments into your lunch hour, racing for blood tests before breakfast, trying to guess what your cycle is going to do next month so you can manage some semblance of a plan, all while trying to keep your drugs cold until you can get them home and into the fridge.
And that’s before you take stock of the emotional upheaval, both the distraction during a cycle and your reaction to the outcome. If you are also unlucky enough to be dealing with a miscarriage or recurrent miscarriage, then dealing with your infertility can seem all consuming.
A key element in this juggle is how our workplaces cope with employees experiencing infertility and undergoing fertility treatment. To mark International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on 15 October 2018, Genea participated in a panel discussion on this very important topic.
Genea Fertility Specialist Dr Devora Lieberman joined Pink Elephants Support Network Co-Founder Gabbi Armstrong, Fertility Life Coach Miranda Murray and Lander & Rogers Senior Associate Tamara Cook to talk about the issue of miscarriage and infertility and how best to handle it in the workplace.
Each year in Australia, more than 80,000 people go through a cycle of IVF. Not an insignificant number of people and therefore it’s highly likely that most workplaces will have an employee experiencing miscarriage or undergoing treatment at some point.  Many of those people will have barely told their families let alone considered broaching what they consider a highly private matter with their employers. This adds a degree of difficulty for employers in working out how best to support employees they may not know need help.
The panel discussed practical solutions and ideas to help employees deal with the emotional stress. One suggestion which Genea’s fertility counsellors advocate is to welcome at least one colleague into your confidence. The panel explained that it helps to have someone at work who knows what’s going on with you and can help provide cover or a shoulder to cry on if needed. The Pink Elephants referred to this as your circle of support, thinking about who you can inform of the journey you are on so that you have a support person at work to confide in and lean on when you need to. If you or anyone you know is dealing with miscarriage, the Pink Elephants Support Network resources are available from www.pinkelephantssupport.com or you can join their supportive online communities @pinkelephantssupport on Facebook. 
Other ideas that workplaces could adopt include a dedicated mini-fridge just for fertility medication, quiet and private meditation or time out rooms and onsite counsellors.
On an emotional level, the panel discussed the need for workplaces to focus on building teams that operated from a place of trust and human kindness so that support could come naturally. Efforts to broaden the discussion on infertility and break down stigmas surrounding miscarriage and infertility also needed to be redoubled.
The panel also discussed the legal issues faced by employees undergoing treatment, and how those issues can be dealt with to avoid additional stress.
Finally, the participants recognised that there were no easy answers and that while miscarriage and infertility were highly personal and individual experiences, we need to work together towards solutions.
All who were involved in the panel have committed to holding a similar discussion in Melbourne in the new year, so please get in touch if you are interested in attending. 

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