World Menopause Day

Monday 18 October marks World Menopause Day 2021

The purpose of the yearly event is to raise awareness of the health issues women face when approaching, during and beyond the menopause, and the support available.

For many women, Perimenopause and Menopause can be a life changing and isolating experience. But by raising awareness and education we hope to support women in joining the dots as they understand the connection between their symptoms and hormone fluctuations.

This World Menopause Day, we are encouraging staff from across the Service to share their own experiences, talking openly about it with one another. It’s a normal, natural part of the aging process, yet many women are still worried about going through menopause.

The menopause typically happens between age 45 and 55, but for some women can happen later. The ‘perimenopause’ is the phase leading up to the menopause, when a woman’s hormone balance starts to change. During this time a woman may start to suffer with menopause symptoms but is still having periods. Women are said to have reached the menopause when they haven’t had a period for a year. The symptoms last on average for four years, but for some can last much longer.

Common symptoms of the menopause include:

• Psychological issues such as mood disturbances, anxiety and/or depression, memory loss, panic attacks, loss of confidence and reduced concentration

• Hot flushes (brief and sudden surges of heat usually felt in the face, neck and chest area)

• Sleep disturbance that can make people feel tired and irritable

• Night sweats (hot flushes that happen during the night)

• Irregular periods and/or periods can become light or heavy

• Muscle and joint stiffness, aches and pains

• Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) including cystitis

• Headaches

• Weight gain

• Palpitations (heartbeats that become more noticeable)

• Skin changes (dryness, acne, general itchiness)

• Reduced sex drive.

Menopause isn't just a tough time for women – it can also be hard for those who love them. If your partner, colleague or friend is going through "the change," unpleasant symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings may affect you and your relationship.

Here are our top tips for helping your partner, colleague or friend through the menopause:

Support: Many women feel lost and lonely at this time in their lives: your love and support is more important than ever. You can do this by asking them what they need or how you can help. Also utilise the support you have around you, using time to speak and use emotional support available.

Try not to put them under any undue pressure: whilst it can be a confusing time for you both this is not the time to be making big decisions. Try not to ask things like “when does this end?” or “how long will this last?” Firstly it’s not helpful and secondly she has no more idea than you do.

Accept the silence: many women need a period of quiet for self-reflection. It is unlikely to be personal, as they may be going through many physical and emotional changes happening at the same time. Having time out can be helpful.

Encourage them to seek help: The Menopause affects every woman differently; therefore there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. There are several support options available to work out how best to manage these changes, however this can be overwhelming for many. Helping someone on this journey such as attending appointments, being a listening ear or helping with research can reduce stress and anxiety immensely. Support can vary from the GP, HRT treatment, health & lifestyle changes, CBT therapy and/or supplements.   

We spoke with some of our colleagues from across the Service to understand more about their personal journeys with menopause, how it affected them, and what advice they would give to women across our organisation.

What advice would you give to women out there going through early or sudden menopause? GP’s don’t always recognise its menopause especially if you are young. Please ask for a hormone test to see if it could be premenopausal / menopause. Don’t be afraid to change doctors if they deny you a test.

What were some of the symptoms you experienced during menopause? For me, it was hot flushes, followed by anxiety and brain fog which all feels like it takes over your life.

What helped you cope with your menopause symptoms? Exercise really helped me during the menopause, along with taking a daily Vitamin D supplement. If HRT doesn’t work for you - then please go back to your GP as there are plenty of alternatives to try.

What were some of the symptoms you experienced during menopause?

My initial symptoms were very simple – hot flushes. I first experienced these in my early 50s so they weren’t unexpected. To describe them, imagine sitting in a meeting in a comfortably air conditioned office when suddenly (and I mean a nano-second) you feel like you’re sitting in the Bahamas dressed in full ski gear, mask and all. Your inner thermostat has malfunctioned, and you desperately want to fan yourself with your notebook, but don’t want to draw attention to yourself. I politely excused myself, left the room and sat in my car for 20 minutes.

What helped you cope with your menopause symptoms? Talking about it with friends, colleagues and loved ones, asking questions, taking control of your treatment, and taking time out for myself.

What advice would you give to women out there going through early or sudden menopause? Embrace it, it’s part of life’s cycle. Keep in touch with your body and its changes, remember to be kind to yourself, and don’t hide your discomfort or worries, and always remember to talk about it to others.

I’d also recommend researching natural products which might help you.

What were some of the symptoms you experienced during menopause?

Night sweats, brain fog, bloating, appetite change and hot flushes.

Tips which really helped me:

  • Avoid polyester and nylon.
  • Lower your caffeine intake
  • Embrace the changes and don’t feel embarrassed; you’re not alone
  • Bear with the hot flushes
  • Reduce your sugar intake, replacing it with honey

What helped you cope with your menopause symptoms?

Unfortunately I couldn’t take HRT, instead I visited Holland & Barrett and found a fantastic product called Soya Isoflavones a natural oestrogen - which is what my body needed. After suffering in silence, feeling embarrassed and silly for far too long I decided to own it and embrace it.

What advice would you give to women out there going through early or sudden menopause?I found that exercise really helped with my menopause symptoms, as well as taking certain supplements (but remember to consult your GP). I am not on HRT due to lots of women in my family having had breast cancer including my mum, sister and aunties.

I also found that alcohol/caffeine and chocolate made my hot flushes worse, and find that herbal teas helped with that bloating feeling.

What were some of the symptoms you experienced during menopause?

  • Hot flushes
  • Changes in sleeping pattern/ insomnia
  • Concentration levels would fluctuate during the day
  • I didn't necessarily suffer from mood swings, but I put that down to the increased endorphins from exercising

What helped you cope with your menopause symptoms?

  • Exercise definitely - swimming and strength training to keep me strong and flexible
  • I take evening primrose and cod liver oil. I also avoid all high processed food, using fresh produce all the time
  • Regular full body massages helped improve circulation and general wellness

Despite there being a taboo around the menopause, there is lots of support available.

CIPD Menopause podcast