Hot flushes. Brain fog. Panic attacks. Constant trips to the loo. None of these things help when you're trying to put forward a cool, accomplished demeanour in the office.
Thankfully, the veil of silence that prevented the menopause being discussed in the workplace is at last being lifted.
As women begin to make strides in the corporate world, the menopause is being taken seriously by managers and human resources departments.
In fact, according to government figures, menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in workplaces across the UK.
Talking to The Financial Times, Sarah Churchman, head of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), explained the accountancy firm is retaining women who would have previously left after they had children. A fifth of the firm’s partners are female.
She told the newspaper: “It’s a success story that we’re talking about the menopause at work,” she adds. “Menopause has been the nub of jokes but there are serious consequences. We want [women] to be able to talk about any symptoms they’re experiencing and get the support they might need.”
It's welcome news that companies like PwC are beginning to take account of the menopause and its impact on women. After all, it is a natural process for almost every woman as she enters her late 40s and 50s. However, according to the CIPD, the professional body for the HR industry, PwC is in the minority. Only one in 10 companies offers women specific menopause support.
So what kind of symptoms do women experience with the menopause?
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Lack of focus/ concentration
- Frequent urination
- Heavy periods and clotting
- Vaginal itching
In 2011 the University of Nottingham researched experiences women had working when going through the menopause. The study found:
- Over 50% did not talk about their health issues to their manager
- Most women wished they had more support
- Workplaces and working practices were not supportive of menopausal
- Symptoms caused a lack of confidence
It is within all companies best interests to introduce menopause-friendly policies, as women may be able to take employers to court if they do not make fair provision under the 2010 Equality Act.
In 2018, an employment tribunal judge found in favour of Mandy Davies, a court officer working for the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services who was dismissed after an incident involving medication she was taking to manage her menopause symptoms.
What can women do to ease menopause symptoms at work?
One of the UK’s leading menopause expert Professor John Studd believes HRT can help with the most difficult symptoms, such as mood swings and depression. He observes: ‘Depression becomes worse in the two or three years of the menopause transition. If women develop symptoms of hot flushes and sweats they may be given oestrogens, which will cure these symptoms and usually help the depression.’
Professor Studd has witnessed the mismanagement of these symptoms in menopausal patients who have come to him after being misdiagnosed with other conditions. He says: ‘The tragedy for women is that usually the association between hormonal fluctuations and depression is not recognised by their doctors who will instead treat them with antidepressants.’
He adds: ‘As these are inappropriate for hormone responsive depression they often do not work and the dose will then be increased. Often, a second or third antidepressant will be prescribed and sometimes even mood-stabilising and anti-epileptic drugs. Sometimes the condition will be dangerously diagnosed as bipolar disorder.’
Booking an appointment with an experienced gynaecologist can ensure the correct treatment for menopause-related symptoms.
The team includes:
The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods ceaseFull medical glossary