Thursday, April 8, 2021

Does pregnancy loss/infertility belong on your resume?

Here's an interesting question:  does pregnancy loss (&/or infertility, for that matter) belong on a resume?  

A friend shared a Twitter post on Facebook from a British academic who has included both the birth of her son and her miscarriage/recurrent pregnancy loss on her CV (screenshot, left).  

"Although one line on a CV cannot speak to the profound physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy loss, I believe it is time to update #academic CVs to be inclusive of women's whole lives," she said. 

It's worth reading the comments that follow, which are (so far) generally sympathetic and supportive. (Is it a coincidence that the less supportive/more facetious ones come mostly from men??) A few people questioned whether this kind of information belonged under "Publications" -- perhaps a category for "Life Events"?? (I wondered this too!)  

A sample of comments (but do go read yourself):   
  • "Whenever I look at a CV with gaps, I remind myself that sometimes real life calls, and that that's okay." 
  • "...this really resonated with me - so many years of attempts, losses.. it’s hard to even quantify the physical and emotional toll it takes - and nearly impossible to account for the impact it has had on my career."
  • "Yes please. That was 2 years of my life with invisible reduced opportunity. So much morning sickness, no baby." 
  • "Think of it like this: the institutions and managers that judge you negatively for including this wouldn’t treat you well as a working parent. It’s like a built in bullshit filter."
  • "Maybe employers shouldn't draw any inferences from career gaps, rather than pressure people into disclosing details of their health?  Committees judging whether gaps are adequately explained by physical or mental health disclosures is cringe. Normalize having gaps as being OK."
  • "My first instinct is ‘why should we have to explain ourselves’. But second thoughts are it shows the qualities we possess & experience gained that we bring forward in all aspects of our lives including work. I think I will use this going forward too." 
There were also some interesting comments on my friend's Facebook post about this.  One commenter liked the idea. She pointed out that academics are under a great deal of pressure to publish continuously, and any gaps must be explained. Someone with no gaps on their resume is generally deemed a better candidate for hiring or promotion than someone who does. (Or, she mused, perhaps we need to change antiquated notions of what makes someone a "better" employee.)  Another commenter pointed out that everyone has significant life events, not just women, and not just related to pregnancy and children. Are we going to start including those too?  

I'll admit my initial feelings on this subject are mixed. The first line ("Birth of son") gave me pause -- people are actually including the birth of their children on their resumes?? From a childless-not-by-choice perspective, that could be interpreted as more of the pronatalist/mommy-bragging culture that rubs salt in the wounds of so many of us. 

BUT -- if including the birth of children is going to become a "thing," then most definitely, recurrent pregnancy loss (and infertility treatment) should be included, and not swept under the carpet. There's a whole lot of coping skills and hard-won life experience (that we never asked for) embodied in those few stark words: "recurrent pregnancy loss." 

I'm not sure I've ever told this story on my blog, but when I was going through "transition services," post-job loss, I had a practice interview session. The woman I "interviewed" with looked through my updated resume, which included 10 years of volunteer group facilitator experience with the pregnancy loss organization that had helped us following Katie's stillbirth. Surprise! (or maybe not) -- she had lost a baby years earlier too, and attended a support group too (different location) -- and we had a nice conversation about our common experience and about the huge impact it had on our lives. 

It was just a practice interview, so I'll never know if I got the job ;)  but it was nice to make that connection and have that conversation, nevertheless.



  1. This is so interesting. My pregnancy losses (and the birth of my daughter) profoundly affected my work life, and where other women can sometimes fill those spaces with volunteering, etc., I couldn't. I found myself explaining sometimes even when I didn't want to. It would be nice to normalize this. On the other hand, I think about my anti-racist training, and YES, it would be great to normalize gaps, without making people have to explain them ... why not judge what's on the resume, rather than what's missing? This is great food for thought.

  2. Hmmm... My initial feeling is that I don't want to put my infertility stuff on my resume. Although, it would explain my big employment gap. I could also make a case for how it makes me a better healthcare practitioner, since I understand how medical events can be traumatic and completely life altering. But maybe I could just mention this in an interview, not on my resume. Interesting to think about.

  3. Hmmm. I'm really not sure. At the time these things were happening, I didn't want to share with my employers or potential employers/clients. I worked in a heavily male dominated environment, and struggled to be acknowledged.

    So I like the comment that gaps on a resume should be accepted, and that lives happen. My gaps would also include "Mother had cancer and dementia" and my husband would have "carer for elderly parents" on it, not to mention "Wife had diplomatic posting to Bangkok" and we would both have "buggered off to Italy for months because Husband was made redundant." (Actually, I have had "Time off to travel internationally" for that trip on my resume!) Yes, I'm being a bit facetious. Sorry!