This Blog aims to provide some information on the menopause, as well as talking about my own experience of menopause in the workplace. For a long time, menopause has often been not talked about, misunderstood, or even laughed about, so I hope that shedding some light on this sensitive topic will help employees and managers alike.
Research from the independent Nuffield Health group estimates that around 13 million women in the UK are either peri- or post-menopausal. A 2019 survey conducted by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 900,000 women have apparently left the workforce due to menopause.
What is the menopause?
The menopause is a natural part of ageing when the ovaries stop producing eggs and an individual is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether, although sometimes they can stop suddenly. There is also a decrease in the level of oestrogen in the blood which causes the symptoms often associated with the menopause.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the menopause can be wide-ranging and will affect everyone differently. Some symptoms can be quite severe and can have a significant and debilitating impact on everyday activities. Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, low moods or anxiety, problems with memory and concentration and a reduced sex drive.
How does this impact people?
When people reach the menopause, it can be difficult for them and those around them to understand and know how to deal with the wide range of symptoms that may start to appear. Many of the symptoms, such as disrupted sleep, brain fog, anxiety, and mood changes, can be easily dismissed as something else. For those suffering from symptoms such as brain fog, forgetfulness, and poor concentration, they can be worried about how their work performance will be perceived, or that colleagues and their manager may wonder why their colleague can no longer work as effectively as they used to.
Historically, menopause has been a taboo subject and there have been misconceptions around treatments. However, there are now many HRT (hormone replacement therapy) treatments available and doctors have much clearer information about the options available. People in the public eye have openly talked about their menopause struggles and there is now a wealth of information available, making it much easier to find information and talk about it more widely.
My personal experience
I’ve had most of the typical menopausal symptoms: restless sleep and insomnia, night sweats, hot flushes, aching ankles, forgetfulness, anxiety, loss of confidence, periods of no energy and just generally feeling meh. It took me a while to realise that what I was suffering was due to the menopause. I’ve had HRT in various forms – tablets, patches and gel – all of which vary in the symptoms they treat and impact they have. HRT has made a big difference for me, although at times I still feel awful and unable to concentrate.
Working from home has helped with the more difficult days or after an interrupted night’s sleep. Many workplaces are now more aware of simple changes that can be made to help, such as flexible working, air conditioning, or allowing a quiet space for people to go to rest for a while if they aren’t feeling too great.
My advice to people approaching or going through the menopause is to educate yourself as much as you can before you speak to your doctor. If you need more information or help on menopause, there are numerous online resources available, and here are just a few:
At Broadstone, we have a dedicated section on menopause support on our internal Health & Wellbeing Hub which includes:
- Access to online learning for all employees
- Links to line manager resources on how to support employees
- Access to support networks
Many other employers are now offering similar resources.
If you are going through menopause, please don’t suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor and your line manager on how best to manage your symptoms and work.
If you are a family member or co-worker of someone going through menopause, I hope reading this will help you to better understand some of the pressures that they may be facing.