Menopause and the Workplace – ‘’The average age of women to experience the menopause is 51 years old when they are in more senior posts and may have more stressful jobs that can be more difficult to juggle around family life, let alone cope with having menopausal symptoms too’’
The menopause was never a subject talked about when I was growing up. From a personal perspective, I was not living with my mum when she went through the menopause; she says that she went through it relatively unscathed apart from a ‘’thickening around the waist’’.
The official definition of the menopause is 12 months since your last menstrual period and the perimenopausal definition is the time when women transition to the menopause. Experience of the menopause can vary, with up to 34 potential symptoms.
• 20% of women will have no symptoms
• 60% of women will experience mild to moderate symptoms
• 20% of women will have severe symptoms
Yet, even though the menopause is natural and will affect every single woman at some stage in their life (statistically for around 4-6 years), this topic is almost taboo. I am passionate about raising awareness in the workplace, I think symptoms should be openly talked about with both women and men. Companies should investigate menopause policies, including having fans, cold water and water sprays commonplace in the offices where women work, demonstrating empathy to their female workforce if they are having a bad day, women being able to talk to their colleagues or managers and feel safe to say I need a few minutes to cool down and go to another room or outside with no judgement.
‘’With around 3.5 million women aged between 15 and 65 years currently in employment in the UK women now represent nearly half of the UK labour force. That surely makes menopause mainstream and as important as any other occupational health issue.’’
But there is also a fine line here that we don’t create a division between men and women, where women can be potentially labelled as/or patronised with ‘’oh she is just menopausal’’. I am fortunate to have close friends of the same age, embarking on this journey together. There are a variety of reasons for the starting age and physical symptoms. When we meet up, we ask each other ‘’have you felt like this?????? Are you????’ to be greeted with a resounding YESSSS!!! It is so therapeutic to know that we were not going mad or on our own and we don’t have some other condition that we should fret about.
My first experience of being perimenopausal, was the springtime of last year when I was suddenly struggling to deal with stressful situations at work. My symptoms were:
• Lack of sleep
• Very tearful and low in mood
• Anxious and worried about events that would normally not faze me
• Lack of confidence
• Sudden bouts of unreasonable rage and irritability
• Reluctance to be sociable
• Poor concentration
• Weight gain
• Hot flushes
• Night sweats
I felt out of control and in a very dark space, I didn’t feel like me anymore and that my family would be better off without me.
I was fortunate to have someone ask me if I was perimenopausal, this was not a phrase that I had heard before or even associated with my age of 49!! So, I went to the doctors due to my extreme low mood and tearfulness, he then prescribed me anti-depressants which I felt reluctant to take but at that time saw no other alternative. By doing some research, I have found that the anti-depressants have different side-effects which can reduce hot flushes and /or night sweats, it is up to the individual to decide the route they want to take.
• Through talking to other women, I found out that this is a very common scenario, with a reluctance to prescribe HRT. There are a variety of treatments including Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) out there – for more information please see: wikipedia.org.uk
• An award-winning, an independent website providing up to date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options is – Menopause Matters.
• For Menopause in the Workplace please see – unison.org.uk
To update you on my situation, I only took the anti-depressants for approximately six weeks, my sleep pattern settled and my fear of becoming dependant overtook the initial need to take them so I stopped (they recommend you do this with medical advice and not just stop taking this type of drug).
I have self-managed my situation to date, some days are better than others. I still have night sweats and frequent hot flushes, and my sleep pattern can be erratic, I now practice giving myself space and time and understanding. I purchased a Peloton bike back in the Autumn and the sessions have made a huge positive impact on my wellbeing/mental health. I often do about 3-4 sessions a week and I have noticed I am happier and slowly losing weight. I agree with some of my critics that I should be outside or in a group of people exercising at the gym, but my working days are long, and I start early so I don’t always have the time to drive to the gym. The weather is not always conducive to getting outside either, I can jump on my Peloton at 5.30 in the morning for half an hour and then be ready to face the day ahead. I am very fortunate that I run my own company so I can have a fan at my desk and leave when I need to compose myself.
I still toy with the idea of HRT, watch this space……….
Written by Sarra Hawes – Hawes Construction Group