Dr Neil Maclachlan (MBE), gynaecologist and panel member at next month’s ‘Championing Women’s Health’ event, is calling on islanders to consider the risks of delaying conception, with families in Jersey waiting longer to start a family than those in the UK.
In Jersey the proportion of mothers aged 35 years and over at delivery has increased from around one in four (24%) in 2001 to over one in three (36%) in 2020. In England and Wales in 2017, 22.7% of mothers were aged 35yrs or more at birth. As a woman’s age increases, so does infertility and the prevalence of infant illness and genetic abnormalities, caused by decreasing egg quality over time.
“We have to ask ourselves why are women choosing to become mothers at an older age in Jersey? There could be several factors, but it is my belief that most of these relate to affordability and employment. The steep cost of living in the island means Jersey has high numbers of households that are reliant on double incomes, childcare costs are high, there is a shortage of affordable accommodation. Higher divorce rates in Jersey (compared to the UK) are also a factor, with more relationships starting later in life,” said Dr MacLachlan.
“Employers need to take a look at their policies and consider how supportive an environment and culture they provide for women looking to start a family,” said Dr MacLachlan. “Reproductive health is often overlooked in the workplace and pregnancy is too often framed as something that will negatively impact a women’s career in the long-term.
“Workers experiencing pregnancy, miscarriage, post-natal depression, premenstrual syndrome, the menopause and other issues often face ignorance and discrimination from managers and colleagues. HR policies which fail to recognise the significance of these issues also risk triggering punitive proceedings to terminate employment. All of this makes the decision to start a family even more challenging for many, many couples who need both parents to stay in employment to meet the financial commitments of having a family. We need to reframe parenthood as a societal concern that workplaces and Government have a duty to address.”
The first ‘Championing Women’s Health’ event, which takes place at the Pomme D’Or hotel on 17th March, aims to raise awareness of the gender health gap, to encourage islanders to start talking about topics which may be considered ‘taboo’ and to encourage employers to think about how women’s health is addressed in their workplace. The event takes place in the same month as both Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and National Endometrioses Awareness Month – two diseases that have a significant impact on the lives of women.
Event organiser, founder of Brand Champions, Fiona Wylie (pictured), said: “We hope our first event starts the conversation and gets the ball rolling towards cultural and policy-level change in the workplace. Women should never feel obliged to delay starting a family because their employer wouldn’t be supportive or it could mean their career path is impacted negatively. An open approach to what ‘back to work’ might look like and the option for new parents (both men and women) to work flexibly are key to ensuring we break the circle of inequity in the workplace.”
Brand Champions has commissioned a significant piece of research specific to the gender health gap in Jersey. The hope is that statistical evidence will inspire action and change across the community, industry and Government. These findings will be revealed at the first event as part of raising awareness of the issue in a Jersey-specific context. Any facts and findings will also serve as valuable insights to understand the views of islanders on the gender health gap and what their expectations are of how we start to solve it.
Profits of all ticket sales for the event are being donated to The Eve Appeal. “Using our events to raise as much money as we can for The Eve Appeal is very important to us – we are incredibly grateful to our lead sponsor, Healthspan. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to put on this event and also raise money for a very worthy charity.”
The Eve Appeal was set up to prevent gynaecological cancers and save lives by funding ground-breaking research focused on developing effective methods of risk prediction, earlier detection and developing screening for all of the five gynae cancers.
The aim is that the event will be inclusive, with all islanders very welcome to join. The event, which is taking place at the Pomme D’Or at 5pm on 17th March, will see attendees join in person and virtually. Click here to book your place.