Author: Ruby Relton BSc MSc
The second article in the “Being a 21st Century Employer” Hertility Series reviews different reproductive health conditions that can affect employees and provides recommendations on how to support employees going through these issues.
As attitudes to sexual and reproductive health change, more and more individuals are discussing their reproductive health openly and making it a priority. This means that part of being a 21st century employer is being knowledgeable on the reproductive health conditions that could affect your employees.
Most common reproductive health conditions – the lowdown
Infertility is one of the most common reproductive health disorders in people aged 25-40, affecting 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK.
- There are various causes of infertility but the most common one is the inability to ovulate (release the egg) during the monthly cycle, which accounts for as many as 25% of cases.
- Experiencing infertility is both emotionally and financially taxing and unsurprisingly, takes a toll on an individual’s mental wellbeing with over 40% feeling suicidal as a result of fertility problems and unsuccessful treatment (Fertility Network UK).
- As a result, employees’ infertility may have a knock-on effect on organisational productivity.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is one of the commonest endocrine disorders, affecting close to 1 in 10 individuals, which has both reproductive and metabolic consequences.
- Many people with PCOS struggle to get pregnant and other symptoms include hormonal acne, weight gain, hair growth in areas such as the face, midriff or back and hair loss..
- These symptoms contribute to women with PCOS being 4 times more at risk of developing anxiety and depression compared to those unaffected by the condition.
- Many women struggle to get to a diagnosis with the average time-to-diagnosis of 4 years in the public sector, further affecting their mental health as well as their ability to focus and perform at work.
Endometriosis is a chronic, debilitating reproductive health condition, affecting 1.5 million women in the UK (1 in 10).
- While there is no current cure for endometriosis, there are options to manage the pelvic pain and other symptoms.
- 95% of women report that endometriosis impacted their well-being negatively and more than a third felt concerned over losing their job.
- The journey to diagnosis for this condition is arduous – it can take up to 8 years, more than 10 GP visits and requires an invasive surgical laparoscopic procedure.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
Primary ovarian insufficiency is rarer than others (affecting 1 in 100 under the age of 40) and occurs when the ovaries do not function properly, but in 75% of cases the cause of the dysfunction is unknown.
- The most prevalent symptoms include infertility, fluctuations in hormone levels, menopause-like symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping; all of which affect a woman’s quality of life and mental health.
- Few know (until the doctor tells them) that if left untreated or undiagnosed, POI increases the risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and gynaecological cancers.
- The earlier POI is detected, the higher the chances of success in fertility preservation routes.
What can you do as an employer?
- Offer the opportunity for staff to test their hormones – not only does this shorten the time to diagnosis in each of the above conditions, but also offers the opportunity to make informed, timely decisions with regards to their reproductive health.
2. Work alongside a trusted partner such as Hertility Health to provide comprehensive reproductive care through benefits schemes, e.g., fertility counselling, specialist care, opportunities to consider egg freezing or access fertility treatment.
3. Create a supportive, compassionate workplace environment – most reproductive health conditions are a long-term struggle for your employees and they will appreciate empathy and understanding from their employer.
4. Provide opportunities for education and learning to increase awareness of reproductive health conditions and open up a dialogue to facilitate discussion in the workplace.
5. Provide flexible working hours and an inclusive and thoughtful reproductive health leave policy. This enables women to attend important doctors appointments, diagnostic procedures and access anything they need for treatment.
About Hertility Health
Hertility Health is shaping the future of Reproductive Health by giving women the ability to understand and manage their fertility and hormone health from menstruation to menopause.
Hertility Health has developed a comprehensive virtual health assessment and cutting edge at-home blood test able to detect common causes of infertility, PCOS, POI, thyroid dysfunction, hormone balances and other common gynaecological pathologies. Hertility Health’s proactive approach to reproductive health can shorten the time to a diagnosis from 4-7 years to just 14 days. We partner with companies to provide educational workshops, female health assessments and consultations with in-house experts in fertility, menopause, PCOS, endometriosis and gynaecology.