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18 Oct 2023

Perimenopause and fertility: why employers need to adjust family-forming support

As family-friendly benefits soar in demand and popularity, today's workplaces are beginning to address a topic that's long overdue for discussion: the challenges women face due to the overlap between fertility and menopause

How to elevate family-forming support to address the intersection between perimenopause and fertility.jpg

 

At first glance, rewards and benefits teams might treat the health topics of menopause and fertility as distinct, each addressing different life stages and employee groups. However, such a compartmentalised view no longer aligns with the modern-day workforce. 

To effectively support employees’ ambitions and career journeys, and to achieve the often ambitious gender diversity targets in place, employers need to understand the close and increasingly impactful interplay between menopause and fertility. 

The truth about perimenopause 

Perimenopause – a term that literally means “around menopause” – marks the transitional phase where the body of people who are identified as female at birth gravitates towards menopause. While symptoms predominantly kick in from age 40 onwards, it’s not unusual for them to manifest as early as someone’s 30s. 

New research of more than 11,000 users of employee healthcare platform Peppy, indicates that perimenopausal symptoms of support-seeking women aged 40-49 are just as crippling as for those women in the 50-64 age bracket. 

This means that businesses need to expand their understanding of the demographic of colleagues affected by symptoms of menopause. 

The trend of later motherhood 

A growing trend sees women choosing to have children later in life. In fact, in January 2023, it was revealed that twice as many women aged 40-plus were having babies than teenagers. Whether this is due to medical advancements, better career opportunities for women or simply a cultural shift of expectations, the emerging pattern of later motherhood looks likely to become the new normal. 

This isn’t a UK-only phenomenon: in the US, the birth rate for women between 40 to 44 increased by four percent in 2022, and for those between 45 to 49, the increase was even sharper at 12 percent. And then there are those women who go down the egg donation route, so fertility treatment is not only for peri-menopausal women, but also potentially for those going through menopause and becoming a parent. 

However, this shift brings its own set of challenges. Picture this: employees are juggling the demands of trying for a baby, while at the same time possibly grappling with the onset of perimenopausal symptoms – or supporting a partner who is. 

Practically, the complexities of family planning become even more intricate in the shadow of perimenopause. While being “perimenopausal” doesn't immediately close the door on fertility (becoming pregnant is still very possible), fertility during this time is on a downward trend, making conception increasingly challenging. 

Additionally, it's worth noting that this is without touching on the experiences of those who undergo premature or surgical menopause, which present their own unique challenges. 

It’s a vicious cycle: the potential stress and anxiety caused by trying to conceive, particularly as someone whose fertility is in decline, could exacerbate the psychological impacts of perimenopause symptoms. In turn, this could interfere with a person’s ability to conceive. 

What this means for businesses 

Reflecting on the implications of perimenopause and fertility on productivity and attrition at work, the facts are stark: 70% of users of Peppy’s menopause app stated that menopausal symptoms affected their performance at work. And brand-new research due to be launched at the end of October – to coincide with Fertility Awareness Week – will reveal the high proportion of employees facing fertility issues who consider changing or leaving their job. 

But there’s a silver lining: a commendable 91% of businesses are either currently offering menopause-specific support or planning to do so in the upcoming years, and 80% of businesses for fertility support. 

Businesses need to recognise that comprehensive, age-inclusive support for fertility and menopause doesn’t have to be a high investment. Affordable, high-impact digital solutions now exist that will help forward-thinking employers achieve their sustainability goals by boosting morale and gender diversity and protecting their bottom line by mitigating health crises and encouraging employee loyalty. 

How to elevate your organisation’s family-forming support 

1. Offer specialised, anonymous healthcare: With 70% of women not disclosing their menopause symptoms to their employer due to stigma, adaptive health benefits are essential. These should cater to the distinct needs of women undergoing fertility treatments and confronting perimenopausal symptoms. 

2. Maximise flexibility: Offering flexible working hours or remote work can help employees manage medical appointments and cope with symptoms more effectively.

3. Encourage open conversations: Promote a culture where women no longer feel the need to lie about their menopause symptoms or future family plans, ensuring they feel acknowledged and understood throughout their careers. 

4. Offer educational initiatives: Empower managers and HR professionals with knowledge about perimenopause and fertility. An informed leadership can better support and understand the needs of their teams. 

Recognising the holistic impact on employees

Understanding the intersection between perimenopause and fertility and the associated potential costs is more than just crunching numbers. It's about recognising the holistic impact on employees and ensuring they feel valued and supported during these significant life transitions. As the workplace demographic evolves, proactive, informed support is not just a nice-to-have; it's a business imperative.

In partnership with Peppy

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