Guest Blog: Trying to conceive

Our secret teacher has been trying to conceive (TTC) for 2 years. She has suffered baby loss and a failed embryo transfer following fertility treatment. She and her husband are planning a frozen embryo transfer (FET) in autumn and are currently having a break from the intensity of treatment.


This secret teacher loves all things swim, bike and run- with a slight love hate bike relationship. She also loves up-cycling furniture and gardening. She is so much more than her infertility.

There’s a real sense of injustice reading her post: this teacher and many others who are going through fertility treatment don’t want to be away from work, but the nature of the beast means they must be; that teachers don’t want to share details of their fertility, but the system for absence in schools and other workplaces mean that they inevitably have to talk.

This week the HFEA released new data. The trends show that although birth rates from IVF have improved since 1991 for women under the age of 35, in 2019 there was still only around a 30% chance of a live birth following an embryo transfer.


A HFEA report from earlier in the year indicated that ‘black patients have lower birth rates… over any other ethnic group.’

The stats are against women, and so is the system. The stats are against black women even more so. Scientist are doing what they can to improve this data, but what are schools doing to improve theirs?- by school data we mean staff retention figures.

At FIIT we hear from female teachers, mostly in their 30’s who are considering leaving teaching.


For a break.


So that they can do fertility treatment without the additional anxiety of dreaded return to works, and the lack of a policy that could help make their life so much easier.


Here is our secret teachers’ story so far:

May 2021

For all I’m educated, I was NOT educated in miscarriages and their many forms, assisted conception and, most of all, the total lack of support and recognition for us TTC/IVF/ICSI people in teaching. 

Whilst I appreciate all kinds of people with all kinds of careers might read this blog; people who do shift work, people who get the standard holidays, I cannot think of another job whereby your holidays are dictated to you. Before having suffered loss, in the form of miscarriage, the school holidays and whereabouts they fell in the year were never a problem; I think I spent about 3 years post-uni/pre-teacher training out of education so, to me, the school holidays were a schedule I was more than familiar with.

What you don’t envisage is multiple miscarriages, lying to Headteachers about why you’re off and planning IVF cycles around school holidays for fear that the stress and, in my case, the physical toll of the job, might cause the embryo not to stick.  


So now I’m in the position whereby I have to have a one-size-fits-all meeting at work as I’ve hit a trigger for absence.


We found out our first embryo hadn’t taken one Sunday morning; woke up with cramps 8 days post transfer of a day 5 blastocyst embryo.


Hadn’t 3 miscarriages meant we deserved for it to work? Apparently not. 


Monday morning comes. I ring school. And I lie about why I can’t come in.

And I would LOVE to be wrong about this.

I attempted to come back in work but got sent home at lunch as I couldn’t seem to control the bleeding.

You know what the kicker is? 

Because I, a) lied in the first place, and b) attempted to come back in to work, that’s TWO separate absences. Same issue, but 2 absences. 

I tried to do the right thing by coming back to work as soon as I could, but this is what triggered the meeting.

Talk about kicking a gal whilst she’s down. 

So now do I come clean in the meeting? Drag up my painful failed transfer in front of my head and a lovely lady called Sandra from HR? Or do I preserve myself, maintain the lie, and crack on?


I don’t know what to do and this itself is causing me worry and unnecessary stress. How is there nothing in place to protect women who experience failed embryo transfers?


I’d love to know if other teachers have had similar experiences, or if there are those who work in a school that’s developed an assisted conception policy, with a leadership who understand how to handle return to works following loss.


Sending loads of love to the everyday warriors,


The Secret Teacher x

4 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Trying to conceive”

  1. If you can’t face telling your Head in person (I couldn’t) then email them. You’re also then in control of how much info you give. Remember your Head is just a person too. Emailing gives them the time and space to consider the support they can give you and find the right words to respond.

    The support I received from my own Head invaluable, such as taking a week off post-embryo transfer so I could feel like I’d done everything I possibly could to make it ‘stick’. I used a combination of TOIL and personal leave as I was concerned about my absence record but that was my choice.

    Loss and fertility treatment are unbelievably hard. Even harder without the support of your school. I wish you so much strength on your journey. I’m very lucky that for me it resulted in my newborn daughter.

    1. A great call re emailing the Head. We have some email templates that will be shared with the online community. Thank you for reading and commenting

  2. My school has an entitlement to fertility treatment built in to its absence policy. The fact it’s there made it much easier to then talk about the fact I was having treatment. I don’t think anybody will cope well on an absence policy if they aren’t willing to say why they have been absent to a member of HR. You do have to talk about it. And for both assisted conception even if it’s a failed embryo transfer or a miscarriage you are protected by the workplace laws that protect pregnant women if your employer knows what’s going on. It works both ways. You really have to be prepared to state what you are going through in the same way as any other medical treatment, unfortunately.

    1. Great that your school has this as part of their absence policy. This is so important as it allows staff to feel that they can approach leadership about upcoming treatment. It’s when these policies aren’t in place that staff feel vulnerable and unsure as what to do. Thank you for reading and commenting

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