Author Name: Ruby Relton BSc MSc
COVID-19 and the shift to remote working has catalysed the demand for mental health benefits – it is now a “must have” for employers in 2021. In fact, in a recent survey 91% of respondents stated that a company’s culture should support mental health.
It is no coincidence that mental well-being is included in how reproductive health is defined by the World Health Organisation, stating that “Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes”.
These two elements of well-being are interconnected. As a result, it is impossible to provide comprehensive mental health benefits without considering the impact that reproductive health conditions can have and figuring out how employees dealing with those can be supported.
How do reproductive health conditions affect mental health?
Take infertility, which affects 1 in 7 couples in the UK. Despite its prevalence, it is often met with confusion and denial.. This can seriously impact mental well-being – feelings of anxiety, depression and loss are all common. Besides, treatment can be time-consuming, stressful and a significant financial burden for individuals.
Leading employers in the benefits space are recognising the impact that infertility may have on mental health and offering “fertility leave” as well as compassionate leave after miscarriage.
Reproductive health conditions such as endometriosis are associated with difficulty conceiving and chronic pain, both of which impact quality of life. Alongside having increased sick leave and loss of productivity, women with endometriosis feel their career goals were impacted negatively.
3. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
PMS describes the array of physical and emotional changes that occur as part of the monthly cycle. Approximately 90% of people who menstruate experience PMS. In some cases, this can be debilitating, a condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD can be so severe that suicidal thoughts are common in these women.
4. Undiagnosed health issues
Unfortunately, it is not just the physical manifestations of the conditions alone that may impact employees’ mental health. Stigma and shame on reproductive health conditions from society and inadequate support from healthcare with symptom dismissal and months or years required to get to a diagnosis can be a significant cause of anxiety or depression for people suffering from a reproductive health condition.
Many things in this journey even after getting the answers are outside of employees’ control. There are no guarantees that fertility treatments will succeed; failed attempts can seriously affect mental health, especially in those cases where little can be done to change the outcome.
How can you support your employees on their reproductive health journey?
There are several things that you can do to help alleviate the burden reproductive health conditions can place on mental health.
1. Destigmatize reproductive health conditions by encouraging education and learning. This is a great way to challenge the current attitude to reproductive health conditions in the workplace and facilitates supportive conversations. Joining schemes provided by charitable bodies such as the Endometriosis Friendly Employer scheme can help you to make those first steps.
2. Create a supportive workplace environment through flexible working hours for those who need to attend multiple appointments, inclusive leave policies and offering free menstrual products in bathrooms.
3. Provide comprehensive reproductive health benefits by partnering with companies like Hertility Health to connect your employees to expert care and help them make informed decisions with regards to their reproductive health.
These can include things such as proactive testing opportunities with actionable insights, fertility counselling, referrals to trusted clinics and specialist care with experts in the field.
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. 1 in 3 women suffer from a reproductive health issue, yet conversations around fertility, menopause and menstrual symptoms are still stigmatised in the workplace. As employees suffer in silence – up to £4k is lost per year per employee due to reduced productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism. Hertility reduces the need for unnecessary appointments and delay in diagnosis time through an online health assessment and at home test.