If you’ve found your route to parenthood hasn’t been straightforward, this podcast is for you. From how to optimise your fertility to getting pregnant naturally, navigating IVF, understanding donor conception or surrogacy to how to prepare for a life without children. Whatever your situation, you are not alone. Join me, Natalie Silverman, as I open up about my own fertility treatment and my co-host Kate Davies, an independent fertility nurse consultant plus experts from around the world as well as shared experiences from men, women and people just like you. We’re here to hold your hand, on your route to parenthood x
The Bank of England talk about becoming Fertility Friendly
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As we get just over halfway through our series focused on Fertility Matters at Work, we’re pleased to be able to share a great example of how beneficial implementing training and support around fertility issues in the workplace can be and how it not only benefits a workplace from a cultural point of view, it impacts productivity, staff retention, and attraction. During the time Fertility Matters at Work has been developing its e-learning and training and policy package, Kate has very been working directly with a number of organizations, providing training and a clear understanding of what needs to be done to better support employers and one of those organizations is The Bank of England.
In this conversation, we are joined by Anastasia Vinnikova Wellbeing Lead who talked about how the project came about as the bank already had a good foundation within the wellbeing space and a good level of education in core principles in wellbeing and life events, that impacted their workforce.
In the conversations that came up, it was clear that colleagues felt empowered from the support being provided and the culture shift had created openness and honesty amongst colleagues.
Annastasia explained the existing peer support network which shares experiences with others to offer support. It aims to equip peer supporters with the next steps and onward support. The bank had experienced momentum in their journey of infertility and pregnancy loss as a result of conversation and so had set up a community and resources, along with making policy changes surrounding pay and leave. They had also been sharing experiences through blogs and podcasts
Line Manager training:
When talking about the role of Managers, Anastasia talked about the difficulties they can experience and acknowledged the bank still has more work to do on how they educate managers. One measure is to ensure a Manager has supported through other avenues and that employers know that their Manager isn’t the only place they can go to for support, hence the importance of the peer support network.
Whist a lot has already taken place the Bank of England are still keen to gain an understanding of why people haven’t engaged with the topic as yet and are looking into further education to help challenge the stigma and taboo around the topic of infertility as you never know how close you are to those going through these challenges?
What challenges needed to be overcome and advice for other organizations:
When it comes to Well-being challenges, it’s important to understand that they don’t stop the minute you walk into the office. Organizations need to understand that it is important to get past the stigma and put actions in place to get over this. Companies have a moral responsibility and should make it an imperative. Anastasia also talked about how as an organization you don’t get the same out of employees if they don’t feel supported. We also discussed the importance of intersectionality and its impact on mental health. Whilst there might be discomfort initially the fertility conversation inevitably builds momentum.
From what the Bank of England has implemented to date, they have had positive feedback from individuals which will help inform and guide, however, it’s important to remember, that no one size fits all.
To find out more about how your workplace can become fertility-friendly visit
Fertility Matters at Work
Continuing our series on all things to do with navigating a fertility journey whilst working, we’re delighted to chat with Natalie’s co-founder and partner in crime at Fertility Matters at Work - Becky Kearns. Sadly, Claire Ingle who is also a co-founder had tech gremlins and couldn’t join us to chat. We’re also joined by Helen Burgess who, like Kate, is a partner at Fertility Matters at Work and an employment lawyer at Shoosmiths.
Becky gives us the low down on the recent launch of the Fertility Matters at Work e-learning training and policy program, that supports employers become ‘fertility friendly’. E-learning helps employers understand what is involved in a fertility journey but also how to have conversations to support their employees. The e-learning covers all the different ways in which families can be made, including solo motherhood and same-sex relationships, and is suitable for all organizations whether large or small.
Helen shares why her firm, Shoosmiths was keen to start talking about this topic. After talking to colleagues Helen found that, like her, there was very little support in the workplace, and as an employment lawyer wanted to shine a light on employers and organizations.
Becky and Helen share their own personal experiences of their fertility journey in the workplace and the difficulties they faced. Becky experienced early menopause at the age of 28. She luckily had flexibility in her role, as an HR professional, to attend appointments but struggled with disclosing her diagnosis and the need for treatment. In particular, she struggled with the emotional aspects and juggling her workload. She just felt so alone and exhausted. Helen, similar to Becky, was in a senior position and therefore had the flexibility to attend fertility treatments and fortunately had a supportive colleague. Helen made the decision to divulge to her team, but the flip side was the need to than to tell work when a fertility treatment fails, and the difficulty of reliving it all whilst trying not to be emotionally reck at work.
Claire talks about the difficulty in disclosing your fertility journey to your employer and their worries over confidentiality and the impact on their careers, but also how often disclosing can be a relief if you are given the support you need. She also talks about the constant triggers in the workplace from baby showers and new babies being brought into the office. Fertility wellbeing is so much more than just having the flexibility to attend appointments…….
Kate asks Helen what organizations need to consider from a legal perspective. Sadly, currently, there is very little protection for employees. There is no legal right to attend appointments and it is down to the employer. Helen mentions that in some circumstances if you’re refused flexibility to attend appointments then it could amount to indirect sex discrimination. Employers do need to consider when employees are not on their A-game so that they can offer support. After embryo transfer, you are protected by pregnancy discrimination protection.
Helen is not sure if there will be a legal change in the future but is hopeful, but certainly not in the short term. Disability employment law doesn’t cover infertility but could cover some of the conditions that lead to infertility such as severe endometriosis. Helen also discusses the complexities of same-sex relationships and discrimination.
We talk about how a policy is the first step, but employers need to consider so much more such as raising awareness, recognizing the complexities of fertility in the workplace, and peer support. Employers need education on what to say and what not to say.
Becky shares her advice on how employees can start a conversation with their employer. The Fertility Matters at Work, website provides lots of guidance in relation to this but Beck recommends writing a list of points you want to raise in the meeting, making sure you have the...
How Infertility Impacts Your Mental Health at Work
In this episode of the Fertility matters at work episode, we want to focus on the psychological aspects of juggling fertility in the workplace. We all know it’s not easy to do and certainly not a great place to find ourselves in but what really is the impact? To answer this question, we’re delighted to welcome perinatal psychologist Julianne Boutaleb @parenthoodinmind.
Julianne is the Clinical Director and Founder of the Parenthood In Mind practice. She has worked for over 15 years in the NHS and private practice with parents and parents-to-be and their babies (and bumps) who have needed support with a wide variety of issues including anxiety and depression during and after pregnancy, miscarriage, and reproductive loss, attachment issues, re-emergence of childhood issues and couples’ issues.
Parenthood in Mind consists of a specialist team of psychologists and psychotherapists with decades of professional experience between them in perinatal settings, CAMHs, primary and secondary care, and Early Years settings. They are experts in working with individuals, couples, and their babies in the transition to parenthood, and with parents of children up to 5 years of age. Julianne is without a doubt well placed to talk to us about the impact of juggling fertility in the workplace and consults many individuals who are struggling in silence at work.
Today Julianne shared the following on her Instagram account - Help-seeking in the perinatal period.
It's so difficult to reach out. To say out loud I need help.
At no other point in our lives do we need help more, and yet fear asking for it.
The fear of being exposed, of being judged,
Of being misunderstood
Of admitting too much…
Does this resonate with your experiences in the workplace? It certainly did with us.
Julianne starts off by explaining the impact of infertility and pregnancy loss on our mental health and then talks about the psychological impact of infertility, referring to the work by Alice Domar who likened infertility psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis for example. Julianne also likens it to the death of the story you originally dreamed of and that it is a moment of trauma.
She explains that in the workplace this trauma can show up as panic attacks, feeling that you can’t get up in the morning, a sense of dread or difficulty over what would have been normal work tasks, individuals feeling as though they’re not in control or trying to ‘front it out’ and not divulging what you’re going through to your employer. She also refers to the interpersonal conflict you might feel and sadly individuals facing grievance due to a negative change in workability. Julianne urges line managers to be aware of sudden changes in workability and behavior and to try to find out why this might be happening.
Julianne shares some fantastic tips on what she advises people to actively do if they’re struggling such as the importance of Identifying a colleague to discuss this and therefore start creating a little village of support within the workplace. Julianne has seen fantastic examples of where employees set up WhatsApp groups and peer support to facilitate better support within the workplace. She also recommends short sharp wins, such as stepping away from the computer, lunch outside the building rather than leaving your employment altogether, and the isolation, this can bring.
Finally, Julianne shares examples of difficult situations in the workplace she has come across from both an employee and an employer going through fertility issues at the same time and the employer being able to offer support but getting no support back and the frustrations she felt with this. Julianne also refers to a friend of the podcast - Sophie Martin @the.infertile.midwife who, as her Instagram name suggests, works as a midwife and struggled with infertility and very sadly, the stillbirth of her two beautiful boys Cecil and Wilfred.
You can find out more about Julianne and Parenthood in
Teaching whilst TTC
Welcome to episode 2 in our current series discussing the intricacies of fertility in the workplace. In this week’s episode, we’re joined by 4 teachers to find out just what it’s like to navigate a fertility journey whilst juggling the demands of a teaching job.
We welcome Caroline Biddle who worked as a secondary school drama teacher for 9 years. Caroline is no longer in a teaching role but is committed to changing the way fertility issues in teaching are managed and as a result, set up her organization – Fertility Issues in Teaching. Fertility issues in teaching Fertility Issues in Teaching are the first and only organisation to deliver specialist consultancy and training exclusively for schools to raise awareness around the impact on staff experiencing infertility and pregnancy loss and to support schools to recruit and retain the best staff by becoming inclusive, flexible, and equitable, as they move towards fertility-friendly workplaces. Claire Walker and Nic Jessop are both teachers currently working in education and Claire Stewart-Hall, who, like Caroline is no longer a teacher, is a coach who coaches people around race, adoption, and LGBTQ in the workplace.
Having to move schools
Caroline starts off by telling us about her experience of going through fertility treatment in the workplace and how She moved schools between treatment and experienced two very different styles of support. Neither school had a fertility policy in place which left her feeling both vulnerable and frustrated. In one school she had to explain every appointment for the headteacher to approve and this was far from satisfactory. It was then that she started researching fertility awareness in the workplace.
Getting your Union involved
Claire Walker explains her experiences of going through fertility treatment with her partner who was transitioning from female-male and how she was told by her employer that ‘IVF is elective like cosmetic surgery’ without any understanding of her individual circumstance. Claire explains how she has always been, as many teachers are, totally dedicated to her job and this comment felt her feeling undervalued.
Quitting your job
Claire Stewart-Hall shares with us a very harrowing experience where she experienced a missed miscarriage after being punched in the stomach by a pupil. Claire also talks about the difficulties of trying to conceive whilst juggling a busy role as a vice-principal and the taboos she felt being in a same-sex relationship and how ‘hidden’ she found fertility in general.
In stark contrast, Nic has a positive story to share about the support from her workplace during her recent successful IVF treatment and frozen embryo transfer, where she says her work environment was so supportive with her employers having a good understanding of what’s involved in infertility treatments and a leader who actively tries to understand what her employees are going through. Nic feels that her experience is an example that other schools should aim to follow.
On Caroline’s Instagram feed and her blog, she regularly talks about the need for schools to strive for compassion and thoughtfulness when discussing infertility. She shares examples with us where thoughtless comments have been made such as headteachers demanding that ‘scans are done on a Wednesday or at a specific time’. Leaders said that they ‘will offer paid leave for 1 treatment but not more, and even examples of where people have offered advice when they don’t have any understanding about fertility.
Claire Stewart-Hall is currently undertaking a doctorate on race and policy in schools and talks about how policy can be interpreted differently by individual schools, and that leaders will often ‘cherry pick’ what they want out of the policy or interpret the policy based on their own individual experience.
Kate talks about the fact that she sees many teachers struggling to conceive in her private practice and asks the group
**BONUS** 'Man Up' A male view on the impact of infertility
Male Fertility is something we have talked about on The Fertility Podcast a lot in the past and you can hear more of our conversations https://www.thefertilitypodcast.com/captivate-category/male-fertility/ (here )
All too often Men are overlooked when having conversations with healthcare and medical professionals about this topic and as you will hear, they often don't want to speak to anyone about what is going on.
This bonus episode being shared to support National Fertility Awareness Day and its focus on male fertility is called 'MAN UP' - an ethnodrama written from empirical research date from interviews with people experiencing complex fertility journeys by Manchester Metropolitan University.
It has been written and produced by http://www.jennyberry.co.uk/ (www.jennyberry.co.uk)
Follow on insta:
https://www.instagram.com/jennyberrypoet/ (Jenny Berry)
https://www.instagram.com/fertilitypoddy/ (Fertility Poddy )
https://www.instagram.com/fertilitynetworkuk/ (Fertility Network UK)
Launching a pregnancy loss policy
In conversation with Channel 4's 4 Women Network about their launch in April 2021 of their Pregnancy Loss policy, how it is being received and what else they are doing to support employees.
Teaching whilst TTC
Thank you so much for this podcast. It was brilliant.
Just the support I needed
This podcast is amazing! It has really helped me to take control of my fertility journey. I have learnt so much and has allowed me to go to fertility appointments knowing the right questions to ask and what I want from them. I have really struggled emotionally with my journey and I can’t tell you how much kate and Natalie have helped me without me even knowing them! Thank you for the support I really need!
These podcasts are great, so informative and clear to understand the what’s, whys, what ifs and everything in between!
Reliable sources and professional thoughts/opinions provided have helped ease my mind.
We have been trying to conceive for 3 years now, 4 miscarriages, high dna fragmentation and delayed natural conception.
We don’t qualify for NHS funded IVF (age/previous pregnancies) and will be seeking private fertility treatment and the IVF podcasts have eased my mind in advance of going down that route by the end of 2021!
Keep up the excellent work and podcasts!!