When it comes to starting a family, it can truly be a testing time for any family. However, when trying to start a family through LGBT+ fertility treatments, it can be a minefield. When my wife and I first started discussing starting a family over a decade ago, there were no organisations like us, no real social media visibility of LGBT+ families, and no other families to speak to locally about their own experiences.
For us, we knew that we both wanted to carry a child each, so knew we would have to embark on fertility treatment. But still even knowing our chosen route, it was an uphill struggle, full of mistakes, dead ends and winding roads.
Due to the NHS ‘postcode lottery’ at the time that still applies today, we were aware that our local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) would not cover us for any form of fertility treatment at the time, therefore we would have to come up with the funds ourselves to create our family adding another layer of stress. We at LGBT Mummies were involved in campaigning for policy change surrounding LGBT+ fertility equality, and although the discrimination for LGBT+ people has been removed, the postcode lottery and other disparities still exist.
LGBT+ fertility treatments and work
No-one can prepare you for what you encounter. If you are working full-time, you will still have to attend multiple trips to the fertility clinic, perhaps during lunch breaks or before or after work. On top of this, there will be numerous medications, spiralling costs, loss of dignity, failed cycles, hormone changes, diminished mental health and even the possibility of losing a baby.
If you’re the non-bio parent to be, attempting to explain why you have another appointment to attend (that’s actually not for you) can be difficult. This becomes increasingly difficult especially as you are then lying to your employer if you don’t truthfully advise them of what it is for – which can then have an affect on your credibility later when you announce the pregnancy.
Taking time off work for IVF treatment
Many feel they do not want to share this information with their employer, and do not have a close relationship with their boss in which they could confide in them about something so personal. Some can feel that it could affect their job, their apparent ‘ability’ to conduct their work effectively and even affect any future opportunities of promotion.
Once you have a child, some people wrongfully consider that you may be less ‘present’ at work. Then there’s the gender pay gap and glass ceiling for our community in regards to opportunities. Couple this with not wanting to ruin the relationship with your employer or chance of promotion, and it is incredibly difficult to be open about your treatment. I was lucky when we had our children that I worked for an incredibly open and supportive employer – some aren’t as lucky, or do not feel they can openly share their journey.
It does tend to be a different ball game for LGBT+ people. Heterosexual people do not go in to work and proclaim that they are “fornicating and trying to have babies!”– they merely advise at around three months that they are expecting. It’s incredibly difficult to hide on average at least 10 medical appointments across a month to an employer, and even more difficult to attempt to have the conversation as to why. Then imagine if you have to have multiple cycles across a year as some have failed – holidays run out, white lies get bigger and employers can grow suspicious. This results in sneaking around to appointments, administering injections in the office toilets and trying to hide your emotions.
Telling your employer about LGBT+ IVF treatment
So, how do you approach the subject with your employer so you are being transparent and can then ask for support when you need it? Do you even want to? Do you tell your employer about IVF so that you are not rushing around, putting your body and mind under even further stress? As any doctor will advise, stress during treatment is the last thing you need.
There needs to be more discussions surrounding how employers can better support their employees undergoing fertility treatment to work to their full potential, whilst in their personal life work towards achieve the family of their dreams. We as a community need further visibility of our families, to normalise the process of IVF, and ensure we feel comfortable and secure in our roles to come forward for support.
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About the author
Laura-Rose Thorogood is a married lesbian of 15 years and mother of three children by IUI and IVF treatment spanning over a decade. She is an LGBT+ family Activist, fertility advocate, educator, writer, seasoned speaker and campaigner. She is seen as an expert in the field of the LGBT+ community, fertility, maternity and donor conception. She is Founder of LGBT Mummies, a global organisation that provides a support, guidance and a worldwide community to LGBT+ women and people on the path to parenthood through their support groups, channels and partnerships with other organisations. She also owns PROUD FOUNDATIONS, which provides education, training, consultancy and speaking services to organisations who want support. This can help with creating internal policies and helping organisations to improve their DEI, LGBT+ competency and supporting LGBT+ family creation pathways through their services or in the workplace.
She has met with the Government, made recommendations in Parliament and works directly with the NHS and other medical governing bodies such as RCOG, HFEA, RCN, NMPA, MNVP to shape policies and improve outcomes across maternity, fertility and general healthcare and law. She holds positions on multiple Boards, maternity consortiums, providing her expertise to influence change, advice on language and other areas to improve equity and equality for LGBT+ families as a marginalised minority group.
She is also regularly involved in leading and chairing medical research studies including projects for UCL and Birmingham City University, as well as being a published author for the acclaimed Healthcare Journal. She also has experience supporting the design of apps and resources across maternity globally (Philips Digital Pregnancy+ app and Best Beginnings Baby Buddy app). Her goal is to ‘usualise’ LGBT+ families across society, whilst creating a more inclusive future through policy change, accessibility and laws.