If you are trying for a baby, either naturally or through IUI, IVF or ICSI, it is wise to try to avoid exposure to chemicals that may have a negative impact on your fertility or your unborn child.

This is important for both men and women. If you are a man, bearing in mind that new sperm are constantly being produced, making changes now to protect yourself from exposure, could have a positive impact on your fertility in just a matter of months.


What sort of workplace chemicals could be having a negative impact on my fertility?

There are many ways in which we can be exposed to harmful chemicals in our everyday lives, including contamination by heating food in plastic containers or cooking with non-stick pans, using household chemicals to clean with or eating food contaminated with pesticides.

While many cleaning products used in the home are safe for occasional, low-level exposure, in some tasks in your working life, you may encounter larger levels of exposure, to a wider range of chemicals, often more powerful ones, which could be harming your fertility. EDCs (endocrine-disrupting chemicals) are particularly harmful.
The use of some chemicals, for example, solvents, can lead to miscarriage, birth defects, neurodevelopmental issues, premature birth and issues with sperm morphology and sperm production.

Who might come into contact with harmful chemicals at work?

There are a variety of jobs and careers where employees come into regular or prolonged contact with chemicals. These include cleaning, hairdressing, farming, pest control, lab work, gardening, engineering and building. Sometimes the chemicals are used for a purpose and other times they are created as part of a process.

What should my employer be doing to check for workplace risks?

The law in the UK requires employers to assess workplace risks and to put protective measures in place. There are regulations covering a wide range of hazardous chemicals, which your employer should be aware of. If you are pregnant, additional risk assessments should be done to protect you and your unborn child.  

As a female or male employee, should I tell my employer that I’m about to start the IVF process?

If your employer is aware that you are about to start IVF, it can open a dialogue around the health and safety implications for you, checks can be done and reasonable adjustments made, if your employer is open to doing so.
Being open about IVF, also makes it easier to explain frequent absences due to appointments and any side effects experienced due to the medication.
As a woman, once your eggs have been harvested and fertilised, you have the same rights at work as a pregnant woman and are protected from discrimination due to pregnancy. At this point, your employer will also need to conduct a health and safety risk assessment, to protect you and your baby.

What can you do as an employer, to reduce the risk of fertility issues in your employees and to support employees going though IVF treatment?

Awareness is key:

By researching into the negative impact on fertility and birth of any chemicals used in your workplace, or created in your workplace, you can ensure that precautions are taken to eradicate or minimise the risks to any employee.

By finding out what IVF entails (including the emotional and physical impact) and passing this information to your managers and HR staff, you can help to make any reasonable adjustments, to support employees who are going through it.

Where can I find out more information about workplace risks and employee rights?

Head over to HSE’s website for more information about health and safety guidelines at work. To find out more about your rights as an employee, you can head over to the GOV website and go to: Employment status: Worker.

If you are in a union, you can also get advice and information from your union representative.

Here at The IVF Network, we provide information and advice on a wide range of topics, through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts, to help to make your personal fertility journey easier.