28 February 2019

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Talking about infertility, a guide

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To tell or not to tell? We ask the experts how, who and if you should tell when you’re undergoing fertility treatment – especially when it comes to the workplace.

Frankly Fertility

At a glance

  • Having fertility discussions with your workplace can be challenging, but there are things you can do to make it easier
  • Partners are encouraged to confide in their managers too
  • Beware of dishing out unsolicited advice to friends or colleagues going through fertility treatments

With infertility affecting one in six couples, struggling to conceive is common. Sure, the subject brings with it a degree of sensitivity, but talking openly about it can be easier than you think.

Think about who you want to tell

Choosing who you want to share your fertility journey with is entirely up to you, however it’s important to think about how your delivery might differ between close friends and family, and someone like your boss.

“These always feel like tough conversations to have,” says fertility counsellor and psychotherapist Elise Atkinson. “But people often get particularly worried about the reaction of a work colleague or manager, and how it’ll impact their career,” she adds.

The Dos and Don’ts of telling your manager

The choice to disclose any information regarding your fertility journey in the workplace is a personal one, and often depends on your own personality and the nature of your professional relationships.

It can however prove useful when scheduling reoccurring appointments, asking for extra time off and balancing out-of-office commitments. Atkinson suggests sticking to the following rules:

  • Do think about your interaction in advance. “Plan what your hope or expectation is for that discussion beforeyou meet.”
  • Don’t bring up your fertility struggles for the first time in the kitchen. “You may want to chat in private so book in time with your manager rather trying to catch them on the fly.”
  • Do only share what you’re comfortable with. “What you want to share will depend on the circumstance. Only be as honest as you feel you can be!”
  • Don’t forget how common infertility is,and that it may have even touched your manager. “The fact that one in six people will experience difficulty or concerns around fertility gives your discussion a bit more context.”

And if you’re supporting a loved one through a fertility journey? The same rules apply. “Partners can ask for medical certificates too,” reminds Atkinson.

How not to put your foot in it

If it’s not you but rather a friend or colleague that’s currently on the fertility train, knowing exactly what – and what not – to say can be seriously tough.

“It really can be a tricky time for friends and family too,” says Atkinson.  

She puts a blanket ban on dishing out unsolicited advice, avoiding the topic altogether and assuming that having a laugh is completely out of the question.

And on the yay list? Regular check-ins, finding out how they would like to be supported and taking time out to have fun together.

Even with the best of intentions, ‘helpful’ suggestions may appear insensitive to someone struggling with infertility, which is why it’s important to pick your words – and to know when to hold them back.

For practical help on how to discuss your fertility journey with others, your GP, fertility specialist or fertility counsellor will be able to point you in the right direction.

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