A local gynaecologist says he believes the high cost of living in Jersey means families are delaying having children, risking higher levels of infertility.
The proportion of mothers aged 35 years and over in Jersey at delivery has increased from around one in four (24%) in 2001 to over one in three (36%) in 2020.
In contrast, statistics for England and Wales in 2017 showed that 22.7% of mothers were 35 or older at the time they gave birth.
Given that infertility and the prevalence of infant illness and genetic abnormalities, caused by decreasing egg quality over time, increase with a woman’s age, Dr Neil Maclachlan MBE is calling on islanders to think about the risks of delaying conception.
Pictured: The shortage of affordable accommodation and the high cost of childcare were two reasons the gynaecologist advanced for women giving birth in later life in Jersey.
“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,” he explained.
“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.”
He added that employers had an important role to play, and ought to examine their policies in relation to “how supportive an environment and culture they provide for women looking to start a family.”
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Pictured: Reproductive health is often overlooked in the workplace, according to Dr MacLachlan.
The solution, he said, lies in parenthood being reframed as a “societal concern that workplaces and Government have a duty to address.”
Dr MacLachlan is one of the panellists due to speak at the first event forming part of the newly launched ‘Championing Women’s Health’ campaign, which Express is supporting as media partner.
Taking place at the Pomme D’Or on 17 March, and virtually, the event will aim to raise awareness of the gender health gap and encourage islanders to start talking about “taboo” topics.
Joining Dr MacLachlan will be:
Dr Sarah Brewer who is a GP and Medical Director at Healthspan;
Fiona Wylie, long-term campaigner for “more female friendly” work practices and founder of Brand Champions;
Matt Falla, Managing Director of Smith and Williamson and founder of Man Club;
and Lynne Capie, consultant for Appleby, who co-founded the Female Leader’s Network and lobbies for Menopause Friendly Workplaces as part of The Diversity Network’s 51 Employers Initiative.
The event has been timed to coincide with Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and National Endometrioses Awareness Month – two diseases that have a significant impact on the lives of women.
All profits from ticket sales will be donated to The Eve Appeal, a charity “set up to prevent gynaecological cancers and save lives by funding ground-breaking research."
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