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  • Eleonora Voltolina

Reproductive Science Hasn't Been Able To Beat Biology: The Why Wait Agenda Meets Jessica Hepburn

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Becoming a parent is first and foremost a decision to make. A choice. But what happens when our mind and our heart long for a baby, and our body simply does not cooperate? When it comes to fertility, wanting is not enough – choosing is not enough: only 85% of couples will conceive naturally within a year of regular unprotected sex. No less than 25 million citizens are affected by infertility just in the European Union.

This episode's guest is Jessica Hepburn, the author of the memoir “The Pursuit of Motherhood” and of “21 Miles: swimming in search of the meaning of motherhood”. Her books focuses on the need to talk openly about the stigma of infertility and unsuccessful IVF, that Hepburn experienced firsthand going through multiple rounds of in vitro fertilisation, suffering miscarriages and even an ectopic pregnancy.

There was no happy ending for her: that's why her voice is different, maybe less sugar-coated than your typical fertility ambassador, but honest. Jessica Hepburn has come to represent the people who have not and will not be able to conceive, even with all the medical aid currently available. And she's living proof that infertility can be overcome not just in the obvious way – by having a baby – but also by finding other ways to fill that void.

Hepburn is now a fertility activist and ambassador: one of her goals is to improve fertility education in the UK. "At the moment, science hasn't been able to beat biology" she says to The Why Wait Agenda: "In the future that might come, but what's really important is that young people understand that we're not there yet".

Hepburn also advocates for the right of young people to be thoroughly informed about the facts and the "nuances" of fertility. Especially for women, it's crucial to know that "your early to mid-thirties" (equivalent to women’s most common age at first birth in Western countries) is not "the biologically optimum time" to start trying to conceive: "I don't think there's any medical professional in the world that will tell you that getting pregnant in your thirties is the biological optimum time: no, it isn't" .

Over the years, Jessica Hepburn has been a trustee of the charity Fertility Network UK; a patient adviser to the HFEA, the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment; and a member of the Fertility Education Initiative. In this episode of the podcast she discusses with Eleonora Voltolina, founder of The Why Wait Agenda, the huge effect of infertility on relationships, the difficulties of sex after a round of failed fertility treatment, the secrecy and shame that still surrounds infertility, and the need to raise awareness about this topic.


This content, and the whole The Why Wait Agenda website, is produced by the Journalism for Social Change, a non-profit association carrying on an engaged kind of journalism, providing through information a secular and progressive point of view on the issues of fertility and parenting and pushing for cultural, societal and political change with respect to these issues. One of the association's means of financing is through its readers' donations: by donating even a small sum you will allow this project to grow and achieve its objectives.

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