Vereinbarkeit von Kinderwunsch und Karriere: Ein Interview

Managing Career and the Fertility journey: An Interview

Dear Theresa,

You've been on a long journey to parenthood, and now you're finally pregnant. We congratulate you from the bottom of our hearts! Despite being very successful in your career, you've also gone through numerous fertility treatments. Today, we're excited to hear more about it.

Could you please tell us a bit about your journey to parenthood?

Our journey to parenthood began almost four years ago. We tried naturally for quite some time, but unfortunately, without success. We underwent all imaginable tests, but a medical reason for our lack of success was never found. In a way, this was reassuring, but also very frustrating because ultimately, we couldn't fix the issue.

How long did you try to conceive naturally before deciding to undergo assisted reproductive techniques?

It was actually a good three years. I resisted the idea for a long time and couldn't understand why it wasn't happening, especially since both of us seemed to be in good health. I was disappointed (even with myself and my body) and it took me some time to come to terms with the idea of assisted reproduction. Before opting for IVF, we tried hormonal stimulation several times and even intrauterine insemination once, but ultimately, we chose IVF.

What fears and concerns did you have before undergoing IVF? Did they come true?

I had several concerns and questions: How would I tolerate the strong hormone treatment? How would I fare psychologically during the process? Would the egg retrieval be very painful? How "natural" is this process at all? Does an embryo "from the lab" differ from one conceived naturally, etc.? However, everything went well in the end. I tolerated the medications well, and while the egg retrieval was indeed painful for a short while, the pain was mostly gone within an hour, leaving only fatigue for the rest of the day. I was back to normal the next day. I still find the idea of cryopreservation strange and the thought that from the same cycle, a sibling could be conceived years later, albeit younger, even though fertilization occurred at the exact same time. On the other hand, it's also a wonder what medical science can achieve.

You became pregnant on the third attempt? Did you do anything differently?

On the third attempt, after a three-month break, we did three things differently:

Firstly, both my husband and I took fertility products from VILAVIT in the three months before egg retrieval. Additionally, I worked with a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor alongside hormonal stimulation. She prescribed herbal granules for different phases of the menstrual cycle and performed acupuncture treatments. Furthermore, my doctor decided to perform the egg retrieval two days later this time, as in the previous attempts, many immature eggs were retrieved, and the fertilization and development rates in the first 3-5 days were improvable.

I can't say for sure if it was a single measure or the whole package, but the results of the third IVF attempt were miles better. Many more mature eggs were retrieved, the fertilization rate was high, and on day 5, we had a perfectly formed blastocyst like never before, as well as three other very nice embryos for freezing. And two weeks later, I could hardly believe that for the first time in over three years, a very faint second line appeared on my pregnancy test. Just to be sure, I took three tests in a row 😊

How did the longing for a child affect your work life? How did you prioritize to fulfill both your professional and personal needs?

I generally enjoy working and didn't want my life to be solely focused on having a child, especially when it wasn't certain if that dream would ever come true. However, it was clear that alongside work, there had to be room for exercise, relaxation, as well as for necessary examinations and appointments with doctors and at the fertility clinic.

Were there specific challenges or difficulties at work during the IVF treatments?

The most challenging aspect was actually the egg retrieval, as it's only partially predictable, and until shortly before, you don't know exactly on which day it will take place. However, it's also the only procedure in the IVF treatment that takes a bit longer and after which you absolutely can't return to the office but must take time off. I was fortunate that one retrieval fell on a public holiday and the other on my birthday, so I "spontaneously" took the afternoon off 😊 I probably had a bit of luck there, but overall, it wasn't a problem, and the flexibility of working from home also helped.

How did you manage to balance the stress and strain of IVF treatments with your professional life?

I was usually grateful to have work as a distraction from the long and frustrating journey to parenthood. Work helped me keep a clear head and not sink into frustration. But I also think it's important to do good things for oneself outside of work – for me, that was yoga and conversations with a psychologist specializing in happiness research. On weekends, I enjoyed spending time in nature, either cycling or hiking.

What advice would you give to others trying to balance their desire for a child with their professional life, especially during IVF treatment?

I'm not sure if I would recommend, in hindsight, doing anything differently, such as openly discussing IVF treatment at work. I didn't want to do that because it's a very personal issue for me that I didn't want to mix with my career, also to avoid any unnecessary disadvantages for future career steps. However, I always communicated clearly when I needed time for personal appointments and strictly scheduled them in my calendar, not postponing or canceling them.

Ironically, not too long ago, my boss even openly told me that he had to take an afternoon off due to his wife's fertility treatment. So, he probably would have understood me well, and it just shows once again that you're not alone on this journey.

Thank you for being open about this taboo topic. It's not self-evident and gives courage to others! Now, we wish you a relaxed pregnancy!