This blog is following on from my previous about my experiences with infertility and IVF treatment, whilst working as a midwife.
In recent years I’ve been focusing mainly on support for women and families in maternity when they have successful I.V.F pregnancy, with the support they need, especially the psychological support.
I’m very open about my own experiences knowing how hard it can be for those going through it now and with the all too common feeling of isolation. I think that is why I get a lot of enquires from midwives that are reaching out for support.
I would really like to do what I can to support those midwives and other health professionals working within maternity knowing how difficult it can be working shifts, long hours and in a stressful environment. It can be so hard caring for pregnant women when you’re going through I.V.F and infertility. For me it was one of the hardest things I have ever been through.
So here are my tips and some advice to help those working in maternity-
Talk about it. Talk to your friends, colleagues, family. They may not understand or give you the answers you want but tell them anyway what your going through, how you feel. Be brave and do it. Talk with your managers too so they can be given the opportunity to give you the support you need and to have some understanding of how you feel with what’s going on in your life. Tell them what you need from them.
This is what you can ask your managers; flexibility with shift pattern and length of shifts. If you need to avoid long shifts, night shifts or to have a better working pattern ask your mangers about this. I.V.F treatment is a gruelling process, emotionally and physically and the demands of working as a midwife whilst this is all going in your life can be so tough. Maybe even impossible.
Be open with managers and those colleagues your close to about how you feel and what’s happening in your life.
Work area. Do you need to change the area you work in. Think about what’s going to be the best place for you. Do you prefer working on labour ward with the team, working at a faster pace because this is a good distraction? Some people cope better when they are working like this as they prefer not thinking about it all the time. Or do you feel you need to work in a different environment, community, clinics? Have a think about what area might work best for you and how your feeling right now as everyone is so different. It might well be that you prefer antenatal areas as you find supporting women to birth or to care for their babies is too painful. These are valid feelings and you need to make sure your in the best place to work in this difficult time in your life. Think about what aspects of midwifery that are going to be the worse triggers for your emotions.
Student midwives try to talk to some of your peers about what you’re going through and let the University know as well. Find a lecturer that you feel comfortable to talk with. Get the support you need with academic work and placements, as this will need to work around your fertility treatments and appointments.
Managers please understand and show compassion towards midwives going through infertility and treatments. I.V.F is not a routine procedure and can affect every aspect of a person’s life, physically, emotionally, socially and financially. Being a midwife and caring for women and families through pregnancy and birth can be so difficult when you want it so much yourself. This is a period in that midwives’ life when they will need support, it’s a temporary situation and these are the midwives that with enough support, will continue into their profession afterwards for many years. Please also read the link below from Fertility Network U.K with information for employers.
I was lucky enough to have a fantastic supervisor of midwives that supported me all the way from when I was a student to a qualified midwife. So please reach out for your P.M.A (professional midwifery advocate) and let them know how you feel, what is happening in your life and how they can support you. This may be just talking through how you feel at work or getting advice as to how to approach managers about working patterns or needing to attend appointments etc.
Check your policy at work and your rights within your trust as this varies through the U.K. Contact your occupational health department and get their advice too. If you are having difficulties with your working pattern or being able to attend appointments, then contact your H.R department. You need to be given some flexibility to attend appointments so that you’re not using up all your annual leave or accumulating sick leave in order to do this. Going through I.V.F is hard enough without then having the stress of facing a disciplinary for sickness and you’ll need that annual leave now more than ever to rest, recover and look after yourself. Please see the Fertility Network U.K link at the bottom of this blog regarding your rights at work, including your rights with time off work following the embryo transfer.
Expect the good days and the bad days! Emotions are up and down all the way and there will be some days you wake up and feel like it’s such a struggle just to even to be at work. Then at other times you may really enjoy being around your colleagues, the positive aspects of birth and the distraction from the I.V.F process.
Invest in some self-care in whatever shape or form this may take (aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage, yoga) to help relieve stress, to make you feel more relaxed and have that ‘time out’ to focus on your general well-being with the I.V.F process. This is so important and so are you in this whole process! Most fertility clinics offer counselling, and you may also be able to access counselling through your trust with support from your occupational health department.
Be open even though this may seem so hard to do. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know your business but just making sure that your letting those know who need to know, to give you the support you need. Your managers and colleagues need to be sensitive to your emotions and feelings and it goes without saying that they need to maintain confidentiality when you are open with them.
I hope that this blog reaches out to those affected with infertility. I felt very alone myself and really didn’t know what to do. My job became another stress in my already very stressful situation. I think now fortunately times have changed and there is more understanding within the midwifery profession and I hope this blog goes some way to improve it even more.
Fertility Network U.K is a fantastic charity supporting families with infertility and they are doing great work to improve employee’s rights at work during this time. Thank you to them for all they do and also for allowing me to add their link below.
I myself am just another midwife who has experienced all this herself and about what my blog is based on. I hope sharing this can go some small way to make it better for those midwives who are struggling at work whilst undergoing I.V.F. and infertility.
And for anyone going through it now remember…..
This is my very first blog and I’ve been inspired by #70midwifebloggers to blog about my struggles with infertility and how this affected me as a midwife.
It all started when my partner and I tried for several years but failed to get pregnant. What then followed was lots of tests and investigations to find a cause. It was whilst I was in my final year as a student midwife, we were told it was unlikely we would ever have children. When this news was delivered it felt like our lives had changed forever. It was a massive blow. We were the lucky ones though and not long after I had qualified as a midwife, become pregnant with our first I.C.S.I (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) treatment and had our beautiful daughter.
We decided early on we always wanted more children and wrongly assumed we had found a way (although different to the regular way) to get pregnant. We also had our 4 precious frozen embryos from the cycle that made our daughter and started treatment again. After several failed treatments we were emotionally and financially broken. I was now physically exhausted juggling work as a midwife, whilst being mum to a toddler and having fertility treatments.
Fertility treatments are often thought of as a routine procedure. They are not. The drugs can have awful side effects, and often I felt so ill, I struggled to work. I had frequent appointments at the fertility clinic for blood tests, transvaginal scans and other invasive procedures that caused discomfort and pain, with some procedures taking several days to recover from. I also suffered with hyperstimulation which caused swelling, abdominal pain and made me feel generally very anxious. We had to stop and being told we had a 5% chance with treatment, we realised the time had now come to stop and accept we would never have another child.
I was devastated, completely and utterly devastated. It also felt like the soul of my beloved small family had been destroyed. I left midwifery for a planned year which then became 2 and during this time had counselling and C.B.T. I thought I’d never go back to work as a midwife as I couldn’t cope caring for women and families having babies when I wanted it so badly myself. I loved my job but working as midwife brought with it the worst pain. I also felt unable to do my job as by then, I was just emotionally exhausted.
I did however eventually recover and found the courage to return. I’ll never forget my first day back being in theatre for an elective ceasarean section; passing the new-born to mum for skin to skin and supporting the new parents. I felt so proud of myself, to have finally dealt with all the heartbreak of failed fertility treatments. Gone were all the emotions that I had previously felt which had been crippling me. I’ll also never forget what me and my small family went through. We later tried unsuccessfully to adopt, and this brought with it more heartbreak in our attempts to become parents again. It’s been a struggle, but we survived as a family and I survived as a midwife. I now love my job with a passion and even more so when I think how close I came to lose it forever.
I really hope by sharing my personal story, I can offer some support to those working in maternity who may be experiencing infertility. There were times as a midwife struggling with infertility I felt alone, lost and didn’t know what to do. For anyone that may be experiencing something similar now, please talk to someone at work, surround yourself with love and support from your colleagues, friends and family. And please for others working in maternity, support those midwives within your teams and show them care, understanding and compassion to help them through the difficult times.
My next blog coming soon, will be more on supporting those midwives within your team and also tips for midwives with infertility or having treatments, on ways to cope working as a midwife.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.…
I’m a midwife raising awareness of infertility and I.V.F within maternity, in particular the psychological support needed for women and families with I.V.F pregnancy. I’d also like to support those working in maternity by sharing my own experiences I had whilst working as a midwife with infertility.
I’m very proud to have been involved with the making of this animation called ‘waiting’ by @formplaystudios