What is World Menopause Awareness Day?
Today is World Menopause Awareness Day. The day was established by the International Menopause Society (IMS) in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to raise awareness about the impact and management of menopause on the lives of women around the world.
World Menopause Awareness Day lifts the veil on menopause. There are approximately 13 million women in the UK who are either peri or post-menopausal. Yet, we often shy away from open dialogue about menopause, leaving women shrouded in silence and stigma.
The day celebrates women and menopause as a normal part of the ageing process. The day highlights the importance of families, friends, employers, and the medical community making women’s health and wellness as they age a priority.
World Menopause Awareness Day also gives us the chance to call out and rewrite narratives in the media about older women and menopause. Often, older women are either portrayed negatively or made completely invisible. This characterisation is not based on reality and does a disservice to the vitality and achievements of older women everywhere.
World Menopause Awareness Day encourages honest conversations about the potential physical and social issues associated with approaching, experiencing, and finishing menopause. Ending the stigma surrounding menopause empowers women who may feel lost, isolated, and unsupported in this new chapter of their lives.
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs when women stop menstruating for a period of 12 months. This happens due to lower hormone levels, particularly oestrogen.
Menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55. In 5% of cases, however, women experience it earlier, between the ages of 40 and 45. Many factors can cause a woman to enter early menopause, including chemotherapy, a hysterectomy, and genetics.
The lead-up to menopause can take up to 10 years and is known as perimenopause. Perimenopause is typically when women begin to show symptoms before their periods completely stop.
What are some common symptoms of menopause?
It is true that some women do not experience any symptoms. This is not the case for most women, with around 60% reporting that they struggle with one or several symptoms at once that impact their behaviour and physical wellbeing.
Mental Health Symptoms
- Change in mood
- Lower self-esteem
- Increased anxiety
- Problems with memory
- Poor concentration
- Hot flushes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle aches
- Weight gain
- Changes in skin and hair
- Reduced libido
- Vaginal dryness and pain
- Urinary tract infections
- Headaches and migraines
Symptoms can vary in severity from person to person and can persist for around 5 to 10 years.
What can help to ease the symptoms of menopause?
Listening to your body and looking after your wellbeing can help to improve symptoms. Make sure you try to:
- Get plenty of rest
- Eat a healthy diet
- Eat calcium rich food like yoghurt and kale to keep bones healthy
- Exercise more regularly
- Develop a network of other peri or post-menopausal women for support
- Try to incorporate some relaxing activities to your schedule
- Talk to a doctor about herbal supplements or complementary medications
- Stop smoking
- Cut down alcohol consumption
While some women prefer to take a more natural and holistic approach, others may benefit from medically supervised HRT treatment, which stands for hormone replacement therapy.
HRT is a safe and effective treatment that uses oestrogen to replace your body’s own levels during menopause. The treatment can significantly reduce many of the symptoms of menopause, including brain fog, joint pain, vaginal dryness, and hot flushes.
The type and dose of HRT will depend on what and how severe your symptoms are. HRT treatment can be administered in the form of skin patches, gels, sprays, implants, and tablets.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the symptoms of menopause, paying more attention to your health can help to minimise their impact on your overall quality of life.
How can you support women experiencing menopause in the workplace?
A recent UK government study found that women of menopausal age are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. Despite the large numbers of women experiencing menopause in the workplace, findings reveal that 70% of women say they feel unsupported by their employers and colleagues.
Women often refrain from speaking about menopause because they fear the stigma and misconceptions about menopause will jeopardise their jobs. In fact, a recent study shows that 9 out of 10 women feel unable to speak to their managers about their symptoms.
Likewise, some managers claim that they do not feel confident approaching a team member they suspect may be struggling with menopause. Part of this resistance is rooted in the fear that broaching the topic may come across as intrusive and patronising. Overwhelmingly, however, managers argue that they do not know enough about menopause to offer any significant support.
There is no reason why women going through menopause cannot continue to excel and thrive in the workforce. Reasonable measures can be taken to make the workplace more accommodating to women during this period:
- Flexible working (e.g. hybrid working)
- Flexible uniform policy for women having hot flushes
- Provide a fan
- Option to take regular breaks
- Allow more time to prepare for meetings, appointments, and engagements
Overall, World Menopause Awareness Day stresses that it is crucial to start talking about menopause more openly and act more compassionately with women experiencing symptoms or difficulties. We should share information more widely and ensure that workplaces have an empathetic menopause policy in place to assist their workforce.