If you’re undergoing IVF and you work full-time, chances are you’ve already been mysteriously disappearing for fertility clinic visits for a while. But IVF requires much more of your time and energy, in addition to careful planning so you can keep up at work while maintaining your privacy (if you wish). Learn nine essential tips to tackling one of your life’s biggest undertakings—while staying on your A game in the office.
Before you begin, you’ll be given a calendar of exactly when to come in for your scans and blood draws, as well as what medications you’ll need to take when. However, this handy document doesn’t tell the full story. Depending on how you respond to the medications, your egg retrieval will be held within a window of dates. Unfortunately, you won’t know the exact day until the process is well underway. Once the eggs are retrieved, if any embryos result, you’ll return three to five days later for implantation, followed by possible bed rest as prescribed by your clinic. So, while you’ll have a general idea of when things will happen, you may not know exactly when until several days before.
Because your egg retrieval and embryo transfer days are moving targets and will require you to rest and recoup, consider blocking out the entire range of possible dates, so you don’t have to worry about rescheduling anything pressing at work. This approach also allows you to explain your absence as a vacation if you’re most comfortable with that.
Clinics try to schedule scans, so workday disruption is minimized, but you may need to tweak your calendar so you can attend your appointments without feeling rushed. Consider shifting recurring meetings that may interfere with scans, and be open to staying late or bringing work home as needed. It’s only temporary!
You and your nurse will be in regular contact throughout the process. Post-appointments, she’ll call with instructions on how to adjust your medication, your blood-draw results, and more. Make it easy for your clinic to get a hold of you and leave messages in case you’re in meetings. “Be sure your name and phone number are current in your chart. Have voice mail set up and identify yourself with the message,” advises Sheila Rees, RN at Mid-Iowa Fertility in Clive, Iowa. Privacy laws require your name for your nurse to leave a detailed message. You’ll want to make sure your nurse can give results via voice mail instead of requiring a callback.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to discussing IVF with your boss. If you can’t imagine telling her you’re about to undergo IVF, you’re under no obligation to do so. You can mask your time away as illness or vacation, guilt-free. However, those regular scans and draws may be difficult to hide, especially if you work nearby. If you have a solid, friendly relationship with your supervisor, consider telling her about your journey. Chances are she knows someone who’s had a similar struggle and will empathize and accommodate your needs. However, discussing your situation ahead of time means she’ll likely be interested in your results, so you’ll need a plan for informing her whether or not your procedure was successful. If you do become pregnant and wait until the end of your first trimester to announce, it can make for an awkward few weeks. Ultimately, let your gut be your guide when it comes to what to divulge and when.
Those pencil skirts may need a push to the back of the closet. Injections and subsequent possible ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) can lead to severe bloating and weight gain. Purchase some looser clothing (think: leggings and tunics) that will keep you comfortable.
If you can’t easily delegate your tasks (who can?!), put in extra time up front, so you won’t be frantically checking emails or trying to work while you’re away. Egg retrieval, which requires sedation, will leave you feeling foggy and sore the rest of the day and perhaps into the next. Embryo transfer is usually painless, but depending on your clinic’s recommendation, you may need to take bed rest for a couple of days.
If you sit in front of a computer all day, it can be tempting to search for the cause behind every abdominal pinch and pull. Before you know it, hours have passed, you’ve maxed out the number of tabs your browser will allow, and you’re more confused than when you started. Rees offers a simple solution: “Avoid researching on the Internet—just call the office with any questions,” she says. “There are a lot of misleading sites and chat rooms out there that can cause more stress than comfort.”
Odds are you’ve already been through a lot on your path to parenthood, and this next hurdle can be especially intimidating. Do your best to manage stress; try acupuncture; reach out to friends, family, and your spouse for help; and don’t be afraid to take extra time for yourself.
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