16 Sep 2022
Menopause Affects Half of the Population; Why is No One Talking About it?
There is a stigma that surrounds the menopause, it stubbornly remains a taboo subject in general conversation.
This causes many people to suffer in their day-to-day lives because they feel they can’t talk about what is happening to them. Very real symptoms are felt due to menopause, and it can have huge effects on both physical and mental health. Common symptoms include hot flushes, chills, brain fog, increased anxiety, insomnia and mood changes, to name a few. A condition so wide-reaching with such a massive impact demands more open discussion.
However, because it isn’t talked about, women don’t have the information they need prior to experiencing the menopause, and those who don’t experience it don’t have the knowledge to provide the support, or even acknowledgment needed. For instance, most people aren’t aware that perimenopause can occur from as early as your 20s in some cases.
This lack of knowledge and understanding means that many people are either ignored in their suffering or misdiagnosed. Often, menopausal symptoms can be perceived as depression or anxiety, and treated accordingly, particularly in younger sufferers. If you’re not over the age of 45, menopause might be misguidedly ruled out altogether.
The way we think about menopause needs to be reconfigured. While it is a natural stage of life, it is still a drastic change in your body which is hard to prepare for. It is a long-term hormone deficiency, and some may choose to receive HRT in order to top up the hormones they’ve lost. HRT is the NHS recommended first line of treatment for menopause, but there is still a lot of stigma and misinformation around it.
Why is there such a stigma around HRT?
We must go back two decades to identify the root cause of this negativity and shame.
In 2002, a study was carried out with more than 16,000 women and released to the media with the results hitting the headlines hard. It alleged that HRT increased the risk of breast cancer by 26%, while the risk of heart disease, stroke and blood clots also spiked. As can be imagined, this quickly caused a lot of panic around the treatment.
However, the study was shortly debunked. The average participant age was 63, which is not generally the age people are routinely prescribed HRT. The women who took part in the trial were generally 12 years past menopausal age, but the conclusions were applied to ALL women, including healthy women in their 40s and 50s. Like a lot of these studies that make broad claims without effective data, while technically their findings are discounted, the impression left with the public cannot be reversed.
Doctors were left confused, and women suffered in silence with their symptoms untreated. This cloud of negativity obscured the many health benefits from HRT; it reduces the risk of dementia, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.
The NHS make clear that HRT is a safe and effective treatment for most going through menopause and perimenopause. However, there remains wariness in some spheres of hormone treatment. Louder conversations, and more of them, can help demystify menopause, diverse symptoms, and HRT.
What can workplaces do?
Workplaces are losing out on huge swathes of talent due to not properly supporting their staff going through the menopause, with an estimated one million women forced out of work because of it.
Does your work have a policy on menopause, and supporting their employees experiencing it?
Fortunately, menopause policies are becoming more common, and support for menopause sufferers is being more accepted within work cultures. Yet there is a long way to go.
Women of menopausal age are a huge segment of the working population. If we were talking about men in their 40s, would we be so cavalier about pushing them out of the workplace? Action needs to be taken now to ensure gender equality in the workplace doesn’t move backwards. We’re making progress on a lot of other areas of Diversity and Inclusion, but we can’t stay blind on less visible issues.
Start the conversation – ask your employees if they need support, develop your flexible working policies and be receptive to workers’ individual needs. Conversely, ask your employer if there is a menopause policy, and if not, why? Building a workplace culture where everyone feels empowered to be open and honest benefits everyone in an organisation.
If you need support developing your menopause policy, we can help with that – get in touch for a conversation.