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5 Practical Ways To Support Your Colleagues Going Through IVF

5 Practical Ways To Support Your Colleagues Going Through IVF

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LAST UPDATED: 13 June, 2024

Recently it was National Infertility Week (April 21-27, 2024), with this year's theme ‘Leave Your Mark'. While infertility is deeply personal, I've reached a point in my journey where I believe sharing my story with IVF can help others.

My path to motherhood was one of the toughest challenges I've faced, spanning 13 cycles of IVF over seven years before completing my family with two beautiful children. I was one of the lucky ones that had success and I proudly stand here today as one in six women affected by infertility.

Today, I want to share some practical tips for navigating IVF in the workplace and how you, whether as a colleague or manager, can support women (and their partners) going through this journey.

1. Offer practical support

IVF is not just a physical process; it's an emotional rollercoaster as well. The daily injections, hormone fluctuations, and uncertainty of the outcome can take a significant toll on an individual's mental health.

Once manageable tasks may suddenly seem overwhelming, and patience may wear extra thin.

“As a colleague or manager, it's essential to recognise the magnitude of the challenge your coworker is facing. Simply being there to listen and offering your support can make a world of difference.”

If they express their struggles, ask how you can help lighten their workload, whether it's by taking on some of their work or providing emotional support.

2. Provide flexible work arrangements

IVF requires numerous appointments, often at inconvenient times. Whether it's early morning blood tests, midday doctor visits, or last-minute ultrasound appointments, your colleagues may need flexibility in their work schedule to accommodate these obligations. 

When going through IVF you are at the mercy of your body and you often have to drop everything to attend an appointment. As a manager, consider offering flexible start and end times, allowing remote work on appointment days, or providing additional leave days if necessary. 

Even small gestures of flexibility can alleviate stress and show your colleagues that you understand and support them during this challenging time.

3. Respect your colleagues' privacy and avoid assumptions

IVF medications can cause physical changes, such as bloating and weight gain, that have the unfair side effect of making you look pregnant. 

These changes can be distressing for someone going through IVF, especially if they're asked if they're pregnant when they're not. It's crucial to be mindful of these physical changes and avoid making assumptions. 

Instead, offer your support and understanding without prying into their personal life. Respect their privacy and allow them to share information on their own terms and the respectful rule of thumb is—never ever ask a woman if she is pregnant. If she wants you to know she will tell you, so this is not a question that ever needs to be asked.

4. Be understanding during the waiting game

The period following an egg retrieval is filled with anxiety and anticipation. Your colleague is waiting for daily updates from the fertility clinic, hoping for positive news about their embryos' development. 

During this time, they may need to step out of important meetings or take personal calls to receive updates or address urgent matters related to their treatment. 

As a manager or coworker, show compassion and understanding by covering for them when needed and allowing them the space they need to manage their IVF journey.

5. Be supportive when things don't go as planned

Despite their best efforts, IVF doesn't always result in success. When faced with disappointment your colleague may need time and space to process their emotions and make decisions about their next steps.

“As a supportive coworker or manager, offer a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. Let them know that you're there for them, whether they need to talk, take time off, or simply have someone to lean on during this challenging time.”

Your empathy and support can make a world of difference as they navigate the ups and downs of their IVF journey.

Supporting colleagues through IVF requires empathy, flexibility, and understanding. By acknowledging the challenges they face and offering practical assistance and emotional support, you can create a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment for everyone involved. 

If you can only do one thing, make it a priority to alleviate any workload or work-related deadline stress during this time. If you can make work one thing that your colleague who is going through IVF doesn't have to worry about then this would make their life so much easier during a very hard time.

Let's stand together and support each other through the highs and lows of the IVF journey, leaving a positive mark on each other's lives.