I was 34 and running a London theatre when I decided to start a family. I thought that making the decision to fit a baby into my busy life was the hard part. I was wrong. After a year of having sex to schedule my partner and I were diagnosed with “Unexplained Infertility” and so began our long, at times heartbreaking, journey to have a child. For years I told very few people about my struggle with infertility. I thought my secrecy and strength was another professional achievement. Then one day I started writing about it…"
Jessica Hepburn is one of the UK's leading patient voices on fertility, infertility, assisted conception and alternative routes to parenthood.
In 2018 she was nominated as one of Amnesty International’s 'Women of Suffragette Spirit'; ‘Woman of The Week’ in Stylist magazine; and won the Fertility Foundation’s inaugural ‘Fertility Hero’ Award for her role as a fertility advocate.
Formerly Executive Director of one of London's leading theatres for ten years - the Lyric Hammersmith - Jessica led from inception to completion the theatre’s £20m capital redevelopment project. Whilst doing this, she was also trying to become a mother and went through eleven rounds of IVF at a range of UK fertility clinics which resulted in multiple miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy that almost took her life.
In February 2014, Jessica published a book about her experiences The Pursuit of Motherhood. This catapulted her into the limelight as one of the first people prepared to talk openly about the stigma of infertility. Her new book 21 Miles: Swimming in search of the meaning of motherhood was published in May 2018 (paperback released in April 2019).
In 2016, Jessica founded Fertility Fest the world’s first arts festival dedicated to fertility, infertility, the science of making babies and modern families which in three years has grown into a major international event. The third edition of the festival in 2019 takes place at London's Barbican in April/May with satellite festivals taking place nationally and internationally including at The Fertility Show (the UK's largest and leading patient event) and ESHRE (the biggest fertility industry conference in the world attended by 13,000 professionals). To date the festival has worked with nearly 250 artists and fertility experts to achieve its social mission of improving fertility education, IVF patient solidarity and support and raising all levels of discourse about reproductive science. As part of the festival's work, Jessica has been at the forefront of leading a ground-breaking campaign to improve fertility education in schools so young people have the best chance of creating the families they want in the future. In 2108 the Modern Families project reached the front page of The Times newspaper spawning a national media debate which contributed to the Government's recent announcement that a broader approach to fertility education will be included in the school curriculum for the first time.
Throughout this decade of Jessica's life she has been taking on some of the world’s most iconic endurance challenges to raise awareness of what it means to struggle to conceive and to encourage new ways of thinking about family. She has run the London Marathon, swum the English Channel and is now in the final stages of training to climb Mount Everest in 2020 which will win her the world record as the first woman to complete the iconic 'Pond to Peak' Challenge. She describes this aspect of her work as 'adventure activism.' To date she has raised over £30,000 for her chosen charities including Fertility Network UK.
Jessica has become a high-profile commentator in the press and media. She has written for the Guardian, Telegraph, Grazia and Psychologies amongst others, appeared on BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain, This Morning and the Victoria Derbyshire Show. She also regularly speaks at public events about her work from book festivals and libraries to major conferences and events.
Jessica also holds a number of non executive positions in the world of fertility and the arts:- she has been a trustee of the national charity Fertility Network UK; a patient adviser to the HFEA, the government’s independent regulator of fertility treatment; and is a member of the Fertility Education Initiative chaired by Professor Adam Balen. She has also been a trustee/non executive director of numerous arts organisations including Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Opera Holland Park , Crying Out Loud and UK Theatre.