Four ways infertility and pregnancy loss impacts employees in the workplace
Infertility and pregnancy loss is a deeply personal and often stigmatized issue that affects millions of individuals and couples worldwide. In fact
- 1 in 6 couples struggle to have a child . For women over 35, up to 34% are diagnosed with infertility.
- Up to 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
While the emotional toll of infertility and pregnancy loss is well-documented, its impact on employees in the workplace is a topic that often goes unnoticed. The journey through fertility treatments, emotional ups and downs, and the societal pressure to start a family can significantly influence an individual's professional life.
There are several ways infertility affects employees in the workplace, highlighting the importance of employers creating a supportive and inclusive work environment.
1. Emotional and Mental Health
Dealing with infertility is an emotionally taxing experience. Employees facing fertility challenges may grapple with anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. The demanding nature of fertility treatments, coupled with the uncertainty of success, takes a toll on an individual's mental well-being. In fact, fertility patients experience stress levels equivalent to those among cancer patients. In the workplace, these emotional struggles may manifest in reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, or difficulty concentrating on tasks. Studies have shown that up to 63% feel decreased engagement at work. Unfortunately, mental health issues are not only associated with the period of fertility struggles - former fertility patients are also at a higher risk of postpartum depression.
2. Balancing Work and Fertility Treatments
Fertility treatments often involve a rigorous schedule of appointments, medications, and procedures. Employees may find it challenging to balance these demands with their work responsibilities. Frequent medical appointments and the need for flexibility can create stress for individuals who may fear judgment or professional repercussions. Employers who offer flexible work schedules, remote work options, and supportive policies and tools can help ease the burden on employees navigating fertility treatments.
3. Workplace Culture and Stigma
Infertility is often surrounded by societal stigma, which can seep into the workplace. Employees may fear disclosing their fertility struggles due to concerns about judgment, discrimination or disrespect. In fact, 1 in 2 of those struggling with infertility choose not to tell their employer. One in five has considered leaving their job because of their experience at work in relation to fertility challenges. Fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes inclusivity and empathy can create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their challenges without fear of negative consequences.
4. Impact on Career Advancement
Employees navigating infertility may experience that this is also impacting career timelines. The pressure to align personal and professional goals can lead to delayed career advancements and decisions to postpone promotions or job changes. Employers can support employees by providing mentorship, guidance, and open communication about career trajectories that accommodate both personal and professional aspirations.
It is important not to make any assumptions about who may be struggling
While age has a negative impact on fertility, especially for women, infertility also affects young people looking to build a family. Also, someone can be “fit and healthy” and still struggle with infertility or baby loss. In addition, fertility issues are something that both men and women are experiencing, and both partners can be equally burdened by the emotional and mental health impact of undergoing fertility challenges. Secondary infertility, where someone has a child from before, but is struggling with having a sibling, can also have a devastating impact on someone's mental well-being. Fertility challenges can also affect same-sex couples, and individuals looking to start a family on their own, so not making assumptions about where someone is in the process of building a family and if they might be struggling is very important.
Infertility is a complex and deeply personal experience that extends its reach into various aspects of an individual's life, including their professional endeavors. Employers play a crucial role in fostering a workplace culture that recognizes and supports employees facing fertility challenges. By implementing supportive policies, destigmatizing the conversation around infertility, and providing resources for emotional well-being, workplaces can become more inclusive and compassionate spaces for those navigating the often-silent struggle of infertility.
Studies have shown that for someone struggling with fertility issues feeling supported by their employer, line manager, and colleagues has a positive impact on:
- The mental well-being of the employee.
- The employee's ability to perform well on the job.
- The commitment to the employer.
- The employee's intention to stay with his or her employer.
- The employee's likelihood of recommending his or her employer.
Creating a supporting workplace for those struggling with infertility is hence not only a compassionate choice - it is a sound business decision!
About the author
Jenny Ann Johnson is the founder of Tilly. She’s spent a decade working on digital educational products prior to founding Tilly. After struggling with infertility and miscarriages for many years she finally found her path forward and is today blessed with four children. She is now creating the supportive and educational tools she herself was missing while going through fertility treatments.
A mental health app for your fertility journey
Evidence-based self-care tools and facts. Supportive community. Treatment tracking.
Navigating the Trauma of Baby Loss: Insights from Reproductive Grief Research
Can Stress Impact Fertility? Unraveling the Complex Link Between Mental Health and Infertility
Revolutionizing Fertility Care: 5 Ways AI Transforms Patient Support
It's that time of the year again
Understanding the Impact of Care Provider Support on Pregnancy Loss Grief