How to Balance Work and Infertility Treatment: Part 1


There are many people who are vaguely concerned about their ability to continue working once they start infertility treatment. According to a survey conducted by NPO Fine, a self-support group for infertile people (5,526 respondents), 96% of respondents said that it is difficult to balance work and infertility. Of these, half chose “resignation from infertility”.

In this article, we will introduce how to balance work and infertility treatment.

1 in 5.5 Couples Have Undergone Infertility Treatment

Due to later marriages and older childbearing age, more and more people are undergoing infertility treatment. According to data from the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the number of babies born through assisted reproductive medicine (treatment using in vitro fertilization, ICSI, and frozen embryos (eggs)) was 54,110 in 2016.

Approximately one in 18 babies born in Japan is born through assisted reproductive medicine. In addition, the ratio of couples who have undergone infertility testing and treatment is 1 in 5.5.

It is calculated that if there are five married people in the workplace, one of them has undergone infertility treatment, but there are many people who do not tell anyone that they are undergoing treatment.

There are steps to infertility treatment

Some people who are about to get married, or who are married but do not yet have children, may think that if they want to have children, they can just stop using contraception. However, this is not true.

There are many factors, including age, that make pregnancy not so easy to achieve. And when you start taking infertility treatment, there are some steps for that.

The first step is to use the “timing method,” which is a method of timing for sex to coincide with ovulation. If you are still unable to get pregnant, you can move on to infertility treatment at a medical institution, such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.

Steps in Infertility Treatment

Examination: If necessary, a thorough examination will be done, and if the cause of the problem is found, infertility treatment will be carried out.

Timing Method: If no cause is found, the doctor can determine the date of ovulation and have sex at the time the doctor advises.

Artificial Insemination: A method in which sperm is collected, processed at the hospital, and injected into the uterus. The process of fertilization, implantation, and conception is the same as natural pregnancy. The burden on the body is relatively light, and the cost is moderate.

Assisted Reproductive Medicine

In vitro fertilization; a method of fertilizing an egg and sperm taken from the ovary outside the body, culturing the fertilized egg, and then returning it to the uterus. Since fertilization is confirmed before returning the egg to the uterus, the pregnancy rate is higher, but the cost is higher.

ICSI: A method in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg. This is also an effective treatment for male infertility such as low sperm count.

Frozen embryo transfer: The fertilized egg is thawed and returned to the uterus after the next cycle. It is not affected by ovarian stimulation during the ovulation cycle and can improve the condition of the endometrium, thus improving the pregnancy rate.

The unpredictable treatment makes it difficult to continue working

When you first start your infertility journey, there is no problem in balancing work with the timing method. However, when you start artificial insemination, it becomes more difficult. With artificial insemination, you visit the clinic once a week to monitor the growth of your follicles and artificially fertilize them when you ovulate.

Since the growth of follicles is unpredictable, there are times when you are suddenly told to come to the hospital tomorrow. This makes it difficult to schedule important meetings, business trips, and appointments with clients.

It also means that you have to cancel more and more of my appointments. It would be great if you could get pregnant once, but the pregnancy rate with artificial insemination is never very high, so as you repeat the process over and over again, you may find yourself asking, “Why is she suddenly taking time off every month? This can lead to a loss of trust between you and your colleagues.

Artificial insemination requires sperm, so the husband must either go to the hospital with you or bring the sperm that was collected that morning. However, it is possible to freeze the sperm.

The difficulty of balancing the two increases even more when you move on to IVF.

If you are unable to conceive through artificial insemination, the next step is in-vitro fertilization (IVF). In some cases, IVF requires injections of fertility drugs every day or every other day in order to nurture the eggs.

Some hospitals offer self-injections, but if you don’t or can’t choose to do so, you will have to visit the hospital quite often. Also, on the day of the egg retrieval (surgery to remove eggs), you need to take half a day off because of the anesthesia. If possible, you would like to take a day off. For these reasons, you have to take more days off from work. There are many people who manage to keep up with the demands of artificial insemination, but once they start IVF, they can’t keep up and quit their jobs.

Pre-maternity harassment” is also a problem in the workplace.

According to a survey conducted by Fine, only 6% of workplaces have a system that can be used for fertility treatment. Moreover, only 60% of them have used the system (or plan to use it). The remaining 40% have a system but can’t use it (or don’t want to use it).

It seems that “there are a lot of things that are difficult to use from the perspective of those involved,” such as “the rule is to apply for time off a month in advance, even though you don’t know when the egg retrieval is going to take place,” or “even if you take time off, you have to make arrangements to fill in the gaps by yourself.

This lack of understanding of infertility treatment also leads to “pre-maternity harassment.” There have been cases of people being told, “Don’t do infertility treatment now,” or “We don’t have the manpower, so if you get pregnant now, we won’t be able to help you.”

It is not uncommon for women to be forced to resign from their jobs due to pressure from the workplace, even though they want to get treatment for pregnancy as soon as possible. The same is true for men’s childcare leave and nursing care leave, but even if a leave system is in place, it will be nothing more than a figment of the imagination if there is no corporate culture that makes it easy to use it. How to increase the number of people who understand the system seems to be an issue for the future in Japan.


When you want to undergo infertility treatment, you need to know these steps and understand what your coworkers or boss think. If they understand your situation, it would be nice and easy, however, if they don’t, you need to take another action.

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