COVID-19 and the shift to remote work have catalyzed demand for mental health benefits – it’s now “mandatory” for employers. In fact, recent surveys found that 91% of respondents said that a company's culture should support mental health.
It is no coincidence that mental well-being is included in the way reproductive health is defined by the World Health Organization - WHO, 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”.
Why should reproductive health be part of your mental health benefits?
These two elements of well-being are intertwined. As a result, it is impossible to provide comprehensive mental health benefits without considering the impact reproductive health conditions can have and figuring out how employees dealing with them can be supported.
How do reproductive health conditions affect mental health?
Infertility affects 1 in 6 couples. Despite its prevalence, it is often met with confusion and denial. This can seriously affect mental well-being – feelings of anxiety, depression, and loss are common. In addition, treatment can be time-consuming, stressful, and a significant financial burden for individuals.
Leading employers on the benefits side are recognizing the impact infertility can 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 disabling chronic pain (depending on the degree of disease), both of which impact the quality of life. In addition to increasing sick leaves and lost productivity, women with endometriosis feel that their career goals have been negatively impacted (my case, already well-publicized, here, too).
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
PMS describes the set of physical and emotional changes that occur as part of the monthly cycle. Approximately 90% of people who menstruate suffer from 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.
Undiagnosed Health Problems
Unfortunately, it's not just the physical manifestations of conditions that can affect employees' mental health. Stigma and shame of society's reproductive health conditions and inadequate health care support with symptomatic relief and months or years needed to reach a diagnosis can be a significant cause of anxiety or depression for people suffering from a reproductive health condition.
Many things on this journey, even after getting the answers, are out of employees' control. There are no guarantees that fertility treatments will be successful; failed attempts can seriously affect mental health, especially in 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 you can do to help ease the burden that reproductive health conditions can place on mental health.
De-stigmatize reproductive health conditions, encouraging education and learning. This is a great way to challenge the current attitude towards reproductive health conditions in the workplace and facilitate supportive conversations. Adherence to schemes provided by Endometriosis Initiatives, Institutions and Associations, and the Employer can help you get started.
Create a supportive work environment through flexible working hours for those who need to attend multiple appointments, inclusive leave policies, and offering free menstrual products in restrooms.
Provide comprehensive reproductive health benefits in partnership with companies like our proposal to connect your employees to expert care and help them make informed decisions regarding their reproductive health.
This can include things like proactive testing opportunities with actionable insights, fertility counseling, referrals to trusted clinics, and expert care from experts in the field.
About Interaction | Women's Health and Wellness
We are shaping the future of Reproductive Health by giving women the ability to understand and manage their fertility and hormonal health from menstruation through menopause. 1 in 3 women suffer from a reproductive health issue, yet conversations about fertility, menopause, and menstrual symptoms are still stigmatized in the workplace. How employees suffer in silence – up to BRL 15,000/month is lost per employee due to reduced productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism. We aim to reduce the need for unnecessary consultations and delay in diagnosis.
To learn more about our Women's Comprehensive Health Education and Benefits for Employers, contact me through my inbox, we are revamping the online platform.