Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life, so why is it still a taboo subject and why are more women not talking about this phase in their lives?
For years women have coped with the symptoms of the menopause, some experiencing debilitating symptoms, with little or no support. They have felt embarrassed and ashamed to talk about their menopause experience. In addition, many women experiencing early menopause symptoms often feel worried and confused by the symptoms they are having – ranging from brain fog to increased anxiety. Women just don’t feel themselves and don’t know why.
In a study carried out by Nuffield Health Group, 1 in 4 women said they struggled to cope with life due to symptoms of the menopause. In addition, 45% of women failed to recognise they could be experiencing menopause symptoms and 42% thought they were too young to be experiencing menopausal symptoms, putting it down to stress.
But what’s more worrying is that 67% of women felt there was little help and support for those going through the menopause and only 25% of women who did visit their GP said the possibility of the symptoms being related to the menopause wasn’t mentioned.
Menopause in the workplace
In a recent study we carried out at Forth into menopause in the workplace, we found:
- 63% of women said their working life had been negatively affected in some way by their symptoms
- 29% had significantly lost self-confidence
- Only 6% of the whole sample group said that they did not experience any menopause symptoms at work
The key to breaking down this taboo and helping women during the menopause is to normalise this part of a woman’s life. For more women to become educated on the menopause, to talk to each other it and share their experiences. To understand what is going to happen and why, along with researching the options available to them to help them cope with the symptoms.
“Menopause is a normal physiological process in a woman’s life. Understanding and being prepared for this phase in your life will mean you are in a good position to meet the challenges of this life stage and to maintain your quality of life”, Dr Nicky Keay, BA, MA (Cantab), MB, BChir, MRCP. Honorary Fellow Dept Sport and Exercise Sciences, Durham University, Chief Medical Officer at Forth.
Every woman is different and her experience of the menopause will be unique to her, that’s why it’s important to do the research, so when women ask for help they know what is happening to their bodies and what they need to help them through this time.
It’s so important for women to not only get the support they need but to get individualised care. As the Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists said in a BMJ Editorial in 2019, ‘Treat women as individuals, not statistics.’
The British Menopause Society has a list of BMS-recognised menopause specialist women can go to in order to get the support they need, if they find they are not getting it from their GP.
Workplaces also need to do more to help women going through the menopause. In our survey 90% of women said their workplace didn’t offer any help. Out of the remaining 10% that did offer support, 5% offered free advice, 3% had policies in place to help women struggling with menopause symptoms and 3% had line managers that were given training to provide help and support for both physical and psychological effects of the menopause. Out of those women surveyed 72% said their workplace needed to do more to improve support.
We have recently produced a comprehensive guide to the menopause to help women become informed on this part of their life. It’s so important to find out more now, before a woman begins to go through this stage of her life, and it’s a great step forwards that from September this year, schools will be adding the menopause to the curriculum. This will help a whole new generation of women understand their bodies far more and get the help they need, when they need it.
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