Let’s talk menopause

World Menopause Day

by Gillian Fowler

Today marks World Menopause Day – 18th October 2021.

How do you feel hearing this?  How do you feel when you hear menopause being discussed? … do you feel slightly awkward at the topic, that it should remain a discussion for home only?  Do you feel it’s irrelevant to you?  Or do welcome the openness and discussions, regardless of your gender?

I am very much welcoming the slow change in attitudes, where we are beginning to see such topics being discussed without shame or embarrassment. How refreshing!  How empowering!  I certainly don’t see menopause as a taboo topic, but as a celebration of life, as well as a recognition of what can be a very challenging transition in a woman’s life.

Menopause happens whether we like it or not, and quite frankly, it impacts every single one of us – as even if you are not directly impacted, there will be someone in your life who is and they require support.

It’s time to lift the lid on menopause, and avoid adding shame to the mix.💝

Put very simply, menopause is the transition in a woman’s life when the body changes to stop having periods and can no longer conceive children naturally.  According to the NHS, this normally occurs between the years of 45 and 55 as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline, however 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before the age of 40.

Menopausal symptoms include hot flushes, anxiety, night sweats, reduced libido, and these can begin years before the period stops – and can last to around 4 years after the last period.  Unfortunately, some women can experience menopause symptoms for much, much longer.

Throughout my life, and until VERY recently, the topic of menopause is one that was never discussed openly, as if it’s a taboo area and one that is best left unsaid.  Yet it directly impacts half the population, and indirectly impacts the other!

How have we got to the 21st century and still have this as a closed subject?  And what can we do to not only improve the lives of those currently going through this change in life, but also educate all those that are yet to come to this time?  Furthermore, what can we do in business to ensure our employees are fully supported during these years?

I recently had a discussion on the topic, where the attending men asked many questions to understand and asked what could be done to better educate themselves and their businesses, plus they queried what medical help was available. The ironic thing is, even as a female, we are not educated on menopause at school nor university, despite sex education being part of the curriculum.  Yes, we can ask our mothers or female relatives, but yet we may feel we are unable to, or are given limited information.  It would be wonderful if we did have this information from an early age!

In August, two local business ladies in the Aberdeenshire area of Scotland made it their mission to bring the topic to light, holding an event where company representatives were invited to attend, discuss wellbeing policies with the view of adding Menopause as an area of protection, and break down the myths.  Tess Day and Donna Christie have been vocal on this area for some time, seeing the gap in knowledge, understanding and support with employers, and want to bring positive change to all.

Such an initiative follows high-profile TV presenters also bringing the topic to the forefront – Davina McCall, Gabby Logan, Lorraine Kelly, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama are just recent examples. What is wonderful is that this change in tide has resulted in friends now having a chat about it, older ladies have been asked to share experiences, and there’s a greater understanding that this challenging transition of course impacts women, but it also effects relationships a home, working environment, and it’s clear both men and women need to be educated on what theses years mean.

When Tess and Donna organised the August event, they realised there was much work to be done from the corporate side.  After all, if we each spend approximately 8 hours a day in the office, that’s a third of our day to be managed in an external environment (half of our awake day!), where the pre- (or peri), during or post-menopause symptoms are having to be managed – and that’s anything but easy.

It’s challenging as an individual, but our working environment can help lessen the stresses of the physical symptoms that occur for many during this time in a woman’s life. So what can companies do?

Well, just for a start, consider the following:

  • Have you had a discussion with your female team as to what they would like to see as support?
  • What adjustments can be made to the working areas?
  • Will the company provide fans? Can additional breaks be given?  Is there a Flexi Working Policy to allow working from home on the most challenging of days?
  • Is there an online education portal that can be shared?
  • Do you encourage a culture of support, understanding and education, allowing discussions to be had without embarrassment?
  • Do you have a Menopause Policy, or discuss Menopause as  sub section to a Health & Wellbeing Policy?

Just like anything else we go through, the experiences vary enormously.  Some women may go through this transition smoothly, whereas for others, it can bring years of emotional, physical, mental turmoil.

However, all genders have a part to play in making the menopause transition be at least one with support, care and understanding.  And women certainly also have their part to play in giving a safe environment for other women to share experiences and what would help them during the years of menopause.

I have recently been surprised and saddened to learn the dismissive nature from some women in business on this matter, with statements including ‘it’s not relevant for our workforce at this time’, ‘now is not the time to be discussing this’, ‘we don’t need to shine a light on this’.  Well, that is a bit of a barrier!  REALLY?

Even if someone in management or HR is not personally affected at this time, do we not know and care for ladies in our lives of all ages? And therefore, can be a better support for them?  Can we not show kindness, support and remind ourselves that wellbeing is essential for our teams, which in turn enables greater performance?

Yes, we are in a pandemic situation. Yes, we now have an energy crisis. Yes, things are going a bit mad in the world at present.  But health and wellbeing is a matter for today, every day … and menopause is a part of this.🧡

So please take a moment and consider all the ladies that are in our lives that are either approaching or may be already going through menopause, and the impact this is having on their lives in so many ways.

Also, look at your daughters, grand-daughters, nieces and so on – do you wish them to grow up in a society that allows a level of shame, misunderstanding and embarrassment for 5-10 years due to natural changes in their bodies? Or can we finally please have open conversations?  Be able to make conscious decisions on treatment? And for companies to better support their workforce during this time?

For now, read up on the subject of Menopause, and let’s start talking.  Share the information to the younger members of your family, friends, extended family, colleagues.  Let’s have open chats, educate and start a positive ripple effect to better health education.

Please start the conversations today … no more delays. Bring positive change now.  ✨

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