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Home » The Vine

The Vine: December 3, 2008

Submitted by on December 3, 2008 – 5:31 PM21 Comments

Apologies for the brevity/tardiness of today’s Vine; lots going on behind the scenes here at TN HQ today.Stay tuned…

Hi Sars,

This is probably more an etiquette question than anything else.When, if ever, should you tell your boss that you are embarking on IVF?I ask because I’m now into my fifth attempt, and due to some unfortunate timing I’m finding that I’m having to really juggle work issues with hospital appointments without actually telling her why.

I didn’t initially tell my boss for a couple of reasons, of which the main one was that I didn’t tell her when we started trying either, and it’s kind of the same thing.Except, of course, it’s not — far more medical appointments for starters, and random (well, from the outside) hospital visits.

On the other side, my husband told his direct supervisor in confidence, for those same medical reasons (someone has to drive me home and make sure I don’t collapse suddenly or something after the general anesthetic).

So now I’m uncertain if I should tell her what’s been going on, which then begs the question of why I didn’t mention this, oh, about a year ago.

The hormones aren’t helping me think much either.

Any advice welcome, thank you,


Dear Al,

It depends on what you want to result from your telling her.My general feeling in these situations is that, if you don’t anticipate the issue affecting your work — either the quality or your ability to make up time if necessary — and you don’t anticipate it being held against you in any way vis-à-vis promotions and so on (which is illegal, but which does happen), then it’s just easier for everyone involved if you give your boss the basic facts of the situation.You won’t have to feel like you’re hiding something, she won’t have to wonder about your comings and goings and think maybe she needs to start worrying about your productivity — it’s just simpler.

But I do mean “basic”; no need to tell her every detail, and that includes how many attempts preceded this one.Just ask for 15 minutes of her time in private, then tell her that you wanted her to know you’re undergoing an IVF course, which involves various inconveniently timed appointments and complex procedures, and that in turn means you will be taking sick days, occasionally leaving work early, or whatever it actually means.Add then that you wanted to reassure her that it’s nothing untoward, that you’re committed to doing your best work, that you’ll make up any missed time and don’t expect special treatment, and that if she has any concerns about that part, you’re happy to discuss them, now or any other time.

Yes, there’s the risk that she’ll hold it against you somehow, but overall, it’s a lot better to treat it forthrightly; by acknowledging that she could have concerns about it as far as your work goes, you’re showing her that you’re still focused on work, and able to balance these parts of your life.

Put another way, if I’m your boss, I’d rather know what’s going on.It’d give me a jump on staffing your mat leave, for one thing.(Knocking wood, of course — good luck!)

But take a deep breath and don’t overthink it — this isn’t technically her business, but the business is her business.Just keep the discussion on that level; it’ll probably go better than you think, and then it’ll be over with.




  • ADS says:

    You could also just tell her that you’re having some minor medical procedures and tests done, and that it’s nothing terrible, but it means you’re going to have doctor’s appointments at odd hours for a while. In other words, you can tell her about the need for flexibility without giving her details on what the exact procedures are. Telling your boss that you’re trying to get pregnant is, unfortunately, sticky from a legal and career perspective.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    HIPAA laws don’t require you to disclose any medical condition to anyone, but I agree with Sars that if I were the boss I’d like to know. When/if you have the talk with your boss, be sure to stress that this is a private matter between the two of you so s/he doesn’t tell the whole office. People get excited & overly involved with other peoples’ pregnancies. It’s a weird phenomenon, and you don’t need everyuone asking you every day about it.
    Best of luck, Alison! GO SWIMMERS!!! GO EGG!!!!!

  • Karen says:

    GO SWIMMERS!!! GO EGG!!!!!


    It really depends on how you feel about your boss/job security. I don’t know that I’d tell my boss that I was planning on getting pregnant, because I think, legal or not, it could hurt me. All you have to say is that you need some time for medical procedures, nothing serious, you don’t wish to talk about it, and you want it to remain confidential.

    The only thing I *will* say, is it may be in your best interests to inform your co-workers that you have a medical issue, and that you’ve discussed it with the boss. People tend to get cranky and snarky when they see a co-worker taking a lot of time off, showing up late etc, and then don’t know it’s been pre approved.

  • penguinlady says:

    Having been doin’ the baby-dance for 3 years now and just on the list for IVF myself, I have to agree with ADS above. Just say “medical stuff”. Don’t mention trying to get knocked up – ESPECIALLY if you’re looking toward any sort of promotion in the future. Yeah, it’s illegal for companies to discriminate against women who are pregnant/trying to be pregnant, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from doing it anyway. You haven’t told your supervisor so far, there’s probably a good reason you haven’t. Be vague.

    And good luck! :)

  • Cij says:

    I also agree with ADS and penguinlady. Due to HIPAA laws, you don’t need to disclose the unvarnished truth. I say this because I have my own health issues, and when it comes to health/medical stuff, it’s to your benefit to operate on a need to know basis.

    Legally, all you need to say is “minor medical procedure” and “not serious or contagious” and they can’t penalize you for it without incurring possible lawsuits.

    Good luck with the IVF!

  • Kate says:

    I’ve done 3 IVF cycles. My boss did not know about it, the subsequent pregnancy, and the following miscarrage. She just knew I needed a day here and there for “minor medical procedures.”

    She didn’t know about IVF #2 either, but when it took, around week 6 when we saw a heartbeat, I told her. She was amazingly supportive. And she was great when I had my second miscarrage.

    The 3rd time I did IVF my boss knew and was terrificly supportive. She was as disappointed as I when it didn’t work.

    She knows after the new year we will try again.

    But I work for a very supportive company and a very supportive boss. I say it entirely depends on what kind of company/boss you work for.

  • MrsHaley says:

    I’m in the “don’t tell the details” camp. I would say “minor medical procedures” and leave it at that, especially when infertility treatments can get some people all up in a lather. She may not be able to set her own opinions aside when review time comes. I speak from experience when I say divulging any info to the higher-ups regarding reproduction in any form is dangerous — I got beaned with that when I got pregnant. So IME, I wouldn’t tell her you’re pregnant, either, until 4+ months in, which, for a first preg. would probably be about when you’d start to show. I’d hold off as long as possible. IME. Maybe your boss is a gem. Mine was NOT.

    How sad is it that women are still fighting this battle? If we don’t get pregnant, who else is gonna do it?!?! Sure, it might be inconvenient at the workplace, but hey — we do want the species to go on, right? Right?!? I did not get pregnant just to piss you off, Mr. Bossman.

    I am still bitter. My kid is 2 and I quit that job.

  • ferretrick says:

    “Legally, all you need to say is “minor medical procedure” and “not serious or contagious” and they can’t penalize you for it without incurring possible lawsuits.”

    That is not correct.

    Sure, you can sue. Anybody with the court costs can sue for anything. Winning the lawsuit is another matter, and you don’t want to go down the “I can sue you” road with your employer anyway.

    Read the following fact sheet on FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) law carefully.

    Also, google IVF + employment and see what you find.

    Its a gray area that’s still being tested in court, but IVF may qualify for FMLA. Assuming you and your employer meet the other requirements (you’ve been there a year and worked at least 1250 hours, they have more than 50 employees) you should go to the HR department and request the forms for intermittent FMLA leave. They are there to help you and can guide you through the paperwork and informing your immediate supervisor. The key to getting the FMLA protection, though, is that you must ask for it. If you are just calling off sick a lot, your boss is free to follow the same discipline policy they use for anyone with attendance issues.

  • Pam says:

    In terms of legal protection (which hopefully you won’t have to worry about), along with the FMLA, there are state laws that apply, so you will want to check out those in your jurisdiction. Some states are more restrictive (or lenient depending on the POV). For example, NYS Human Rights Law has similar discrimination protection as federal law, but applies to more employers because the number of employees, hour worked, etc., is less.

    Best of luck!

  • e says:

    Ferretrick, the spelling of “favour” in the second paragraph of the answer at that first link made me curious; after a bit of Googling, the specific rules there (Employment Rights Act 1996) seems to be for the UK. Dunno if Alison is in the UK, but for those of us in the US, would that article still apply? The second link obviously is for US employment laws; I’m just wondering about the first.

  • ADS says:

    Yeah, ferretrick, that article is a) not from the US, and b) irrelevant to whether the OP has to disclose that her minor medical procedures are IVF related. If her employer were not flexible about time off to begin with, I think we’d be having a different discussion. The employer is celarly flexible about time for medical procedures, and the question is only whether Alison ought to tell her boss specifically that ther minor medical procedure has a chance of making her pregnant. Given the increased likelihood that doing so will negatively affect Alison’t career, I stand by my suggestion that it is unnecessary to mention IVF.

  • CAI says:

    My Resolve ( support group leader told her boss (who was male) only, “It’s female and it’s personal.” I did something similar, and although management may well have thought I was dying or something, that was just fine with me. Good luck to you.

  • ferretrick says:

    e and ADS, well don’t I feel stupid for that first link being UK. Good catch.

    But I read the sentence about having trouble juggling work issues and hospital appointments as she IS having issues with her workplace being flexible. Like maybe her boss has been flexible in the past, but she’s wearing out their good will. Therefore, I stand by my answer of applying for FMLA leave. I agree, she still doesn’t have to tell the boss the exact medical situation if she doesn’t want to, but I also think its in her interest to get FMLA protection in place.

  • sara says:

    First, good luck with your IVF. I’ve been there. It’s not fun… but I was fortunate enough that it worked after 1 1/2 attempts (long story short, the first time got canceled for poor production AFTER I went through all the shots). Second, pretty much everyone knew what I was going through because I work with a pretty supportive group of people, but if you don’t have that kind of situation, I wouldn’t tell anything beyond the minor medical procedures excuse. It’s just easier in the long run. Plus, if people know you’re doing IVF, they think that gives them the excuse to ask you all sorts of nosy questions about your personal life. I know this from experience, too.

  • Ebeth says:

    Best of luck to you!

    In my office, I have staff let me know when they have appointments – how much they share is up to them. But I tell them to put ‘appointment’ on everyone’s calendar (if their appointment requires them to leave early or come in late) and indicate that it’s approved by me. It cuts down on any resentment or questions. And we’re all about equal in what we share – which is very little. (Any midday appointments can be used as the lunch hour and they don’t have to mention it at all.)

  • Jen S says:

    First off, good luck!

    My sister did IVF twice (God bless her) and had a hideous time both times. I’m not saying this to be a downer or voice of doooooommmm–but the fact is the pregnancy may be high risk, and the sooner your boss and workplace is on board with your medical needs, the more used to/willing they will be to keep working around it. If it’s suddenly sprung on them they you need eight weeks of bed rest, a C section, or what have you, they may feel resentful at being “left in the dark” and not as willing to work with you and your family’s needs. Not saying the details need to come out for all and sundry or you should let them illegally pressure you into ANYTHING–but a game plan now will help you have a road map during more emotional times.

    Also, make sure your husband is on board where HE works. He’ll need to be there for a lot of it, especially if there are complications. My sis’s man was lucky in that he worked a fairly flexible profession, had some seniority, understanding bosses, and so on–but he also let them know that due to family medical issues he needed that flexibility. He worked extra hard but did not take on extra duties he couldn’t fulfill out of guilt, and everything worked out in the end.

    They are now a great, stable family and I have two beautiful nieces and handsome nephew. You can do this! Congratulations.

  • sarcastic sara says:

    Request the IFMLA – as someone who used to manage a group of people I completely support this. It protect you and your boss (because someone, somewhere is going to notice you are out and complain, and if you have requested and been approved for IFMLA, you are covered and your boss doesn’t have to take any action based on someone making a complaint. Sigh. People suck).

    Also, sadly, I totally agree that you should tell your coworkers something. Again, like previous posters I would leave it at “minor medical…” yadda yadda yadda. The reason is, well, see my above about how people suck. I actually had 2 employees with terminally ill spouses and the team knew it, and there were still people on the team who complained about how much so-and-so was missing work. Yeah, she was taking her husband to chemo or to the ER, so STFU. Anyway, while it is your personal business, you need to protect yourself to keep your job, and that includes preventative damage control.

    Best of luck with the IVF. My friend who seemingly had everything against her getting pregnant has three happy and healthy kids because of it. Hang in there.

  • akeeyu says:

    So, I had two different bosses during my Super IVF Fun Time Happy Hour. Er, years.

    First boss? Great! Discreet! Respectful! Supportive! Yay!

    Second boss? TOLD EVERYBODY IN THE COMPANY. No shit.

    And yeah, HIPAA and I could get him fired and sue and whatever? Okay, great, except that at that point I was pregnant (yay!) and incredibly ill (hospitalized like…three? four times?) and really couldn’t risk losing any kind of “YOU ARE A GIANT DOUCHEBAG” argument and subsequently losing my health insurance, because as sick as I was, I never would have gotten another job, and my husband’s job didn’t offer health insurance.

    So that sucked.

    If you tell your boss you’re doing IVF, prepare for him/her to tell at least one person you’d rather not know. Or maybe five. Or maybe fifty.

    Oh, and I always had my Reproductive Endocrinologist write me “reduced work load” slips, because certain parts of the cycle can be damned uncomfortable. The slips were always perfectly generic and never said “because we’re trying to PUT A BABY IN HER BAJINGO!” or anything like that. So there’s that, too.

  • Moonloon says:

    You may benefit from aiming your conversation at your boss’s own value system – so, if she’s a “go get ’em” kind of person, then telling her about your previous reticence but new need for things to step it up may be good, if she’s another kind of person, then aim it the way you think that may jibe with her.

    Some people like to hear a sob-story, and even if we’re not given to that, it can’t always hurt to make sure that we speak another person’s language.

    That sounds way more cynical than I am! LOL, but hope you get my drift.

    Good luck – I hope it works out for you, and that that you get up the duff with a gorgeous baby, asap!

  • KPP says:

    I would also take into consideration your boss’s disposition. Country, state, and company rules asside, all bosses are not the same. If you tell them too few details, will they badger you for the big secret or assume the worst (or maybe that you’re just slacking or lying or making a big deal out of paper cut). But if you tell them too many will they, will they blab, ask inappropriate questions, have a negative impact on your work performance?

    If you’re not sure about your boss’s disposition, is there anyone at your company that you could ask for an opinion? I’m thinking someone who knows them and/or has worked with them before, but doesn’t now. Knows you, but doesn’t have a stake in your performance or your boss’s area. Would keep your “secret.” Don’t know how big your company is, just an idea. Do you have a mentor at your company that would be appropriate to weigh in on how much to divulge (and you trust)? They might have seen this happen to others in the past and have some pros/cons to share.

  • AnotherKathleen says:

    Good Luck Allison!
    I spent five years doing IVF, My boss who was a great guy knew, although he did not want to know any details ( squeamish) he just acted like he was completely fine about whatever I was doing. Everyone else thought I had allergies, migraines, back spasms. whatever.

    I don’t think you owe your boss any explination for why you haven’t mentioned this before. you didn’t tell her before because you didn’t know it would be this complicated, that’s all. You don’t owe her the inside info on your health. You made the normal assumption that youd just take $3,000 worth of meds and get pregnant. Everyone thinks that the first time, don’t worry about it. Plus , a year ago you didn’t know her as well.

    If you don’t completely trust her, I’d go with “female & private,” too.

    PS, yes I do have a lovely son & I hope it all works out for you!

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