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Let’s Normalize Infertility in the Healthcare Workplace

Dawn L Baker MD shares how being a medical professional doesn’t insulate you from the shame and stigma of an infertility diagnosis.

After I had a child through in vitro fertilization, I became one of the lead anesthesiologists at the reproductive center where I had been treated.

I loved connecting with my patients, allaying their fears and anxieties about at least this one little part of what is commonly a complex infertility journey.

You’re safe with me. I’ve been where you are, and I will take care of you.

 

Then one of my colleagues became my patient.

Of the four anesthesiologists in our group that worked at the reproductive center, she had to have me.

She refused to tell anyone else at work about her struggles.

She’d scramble to get shift coverage with every twist and turn of her IVF cycles, compounding the stress on an already anxiety-provoking situation. Then I’d have to make sure I was available to take care of her any time she needed a retrieval.

Why? Because she was that serious about keeping it a secret. She was so adamant that she was willing to undergo retrievals without anesthesia.

You heard that right… without anesthesia.

 

I’ve never been quiet about my infertility, but many women suffer in silence.

My colleague is an extreme example.

Being a medical professional doesn’t insulate you from the shame and stigma of an infertility diagnosis.

Furthermore, caring for patients as a doctor and working in a group practice with shared patient care and call duties while being a patient yourself presents a unique set of stressors. Our work schedules are often completely incompatible with the ever-uncertain timing of an IVF cycle.

 

Being a medical professional doesn’t insulate you from the shame and stigma of an infertility diagnosis. Click To Tweet

 

Through multiple private Facebook groups, I’ve learned of other women physicians all over the country who’ve forgone anesthesia for retrievals so they can return to work afterwards.

I’ve learned of reprimands for “too many unplanned absences.”

And I’ve learned of numerous situations where physicians had to completely change their work schedules or even their practices due to their infertility.

 

If this is happening in healthcare workplaces, it’s happening in other professions.

Why can’t we embrace our personal and family needs as an integral foundation to our performance and fulfillment at work?

In this landscape of widespread burnout, infertility affects workplace wellness for all of us.

 

The reality is this:

Infertility is a medical diagnosis.

Miscarriage is a death in the family.

An egg retrieval is a minor surgical procedure.

Would you sneak chemo treatments around your work schedule without asking for help from your partners?

Would you get a colonoscopy, eye procedure or hernia repair without anesthesia just so you could return to work unnoticed?

 

Would you sneak chemo treatments around your work schedule without asking for help from your partners? Would you get a colonoscopy, eye procedure or hernia repair without anesthesia just so you could return to work unnoticed? Click To Tweet

 

Let’s treat infertility the way we treat other health issues that can get in the way of our practices. The first step is talking about it.

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