Globally, around 186 million people are struggling with infertility. Yet, for such a widespread problem, there’s still very little talk around the subject and an obvious lack of support. This is especially prominent in the workplace, with healthcare systems consistently failing to recognise reproductive health concerns as legitimate workplace issues. Now is the time to change that, whether you’re an employer or an employee! Start by understanding how fertility issues can affect healthcare employees, and let’s make the industry a more compassionate place to work.
Fertility Problems Around the World
Fertility problems can encompass a wide range of issues, from endometriosis – a cripplingly painful disease that causes infertility – and the effects of cancer treatment to early-onset menopause. Both men and women can experience issues with their fertility. Around 9% of men and 11% of women in the US have experienced infertility, whilst in England, 31% of women have suffered from reproductive health issues, which can include infertility.
Many of these people seek medical help, including fertility treatment. From IUI to IVF, there are a number of options to improve reproductive health and aid in conception, but each one takes a toll on the individual. Let’s take a closer look at just how fertility problems can affect healthcare employees.
Healthcare employees experiencing fertility issues are more likely to be absent from work. This can be due to a number of reasons, including the emotional strain it takes on them. Depression is up to 54% more likely in infertile couples than in those who can conceive, and anxiety or stress is up to 28% more likely. When mental health suffers, so does the individual’s work life.
Absences can also be due to fertility treatment. With high demand and tight schedules, it can be tricky to book sessions around work hours, especially in the healthcare industry, where work is very rarely on a 9-5 basis. Some individuals may need daily visits to fertility clinics at certain times of the month, such as during ovulation, which is extremely difficult to manage. It’s also common to attend fertility events to learn more about their reproductive health, which often requires time off.
Both short-term and long-term absences should be expected in those suffering from fertility issues, especially if they’re trying to conceive.
For some individuals, such as those suffering from debilitative fertility issues such as endometriosis, reproductive health can lead to the end of their careers. They may have difficulty managing symptoms at work or find the lack of support worsening their mental health. If work is causing their health to decline, they may have no other choice but to leave.
Difficulty Working in Maternity Sectors
For many people struggling with fertility issues, working in the maternity ward or with pregnant patients is extremely difficult. Watching others give birth or deal with pregnancy can be triggering, leading to strong emotional responses. They may also find it hard if colleagues are pregnant, serving as a constant reminder of their health concerns.
The healthcare industry is a job that many people pursue because they love to help others or have a keen interest in medicine. But, at the end of the day, they’re also doing it for financial reasons. For those going through treatment, money can become a huge stress, with absences and the threat of job loss combined with the need to pay for treatment. This stress and anxiety take a toll on mental health, and can lead to the individual becoming more irritable, tired, and emotional at work.