‘The change’ is an often misunderstood part of women’s lives that many still see as a taboo area – but one that can have a huge impact on daily life.
But the symptoms of the menopause are becoming increasingly well documented as the message finally spreads to the world of business and the workplace that it can be heavily debilitating.
Symptoms of the menopause in some people can be severe, ranging from night sweats and mood swings to insomnia and extreme stress, which can have a massive affect on a woman’s home life and work.
Kathryn Colas’s own difficult experience of menopause inspired her to create her own consultancy, Simply Hormones, to help employers understand a major staff issue.
The 64-year-old was a well-paid sales and management director for a country house hotel in Surrey but experienced symptoms so severe that she considered divorce and thought she was having a mental breakdown.
“I thought I was suffering from bipolar disorder,” she said. “I thought I was going mad. I didn’t realise it was actually the menopause.”
She now tours the UK offering businesses advice on how to understand the change and debunk the myths around it, in the hope it will help increase prospects for female staff and enhance company reputations.
Kathryn visited Yorkshire law firm Gordons, which has an office in Leeds, to deliver the message to the company. She said the firm’s proactive approach was “enlightened” and was important due to its links with other companies.
Her experience of struggling to cope with symptoms in the workplace is an issue many women sympathised with during a 2010 research study by Professor Amanda Griffiths at the University of Nottingham.
It looked at the experiences of 900 menopausal working women to find many women did not receive enough support to cope with symptoms like fatigue and depression.
Prof Griffiths said: “In many settings, there was very little awareness of the menopause as a potential occupational health issue – it was a ‘taboo’ topic. In such circumstances, women typically suffer in silence and dare not speak openly about their difficulties.”
The research informed guidance published by the Trade Union Congress on the issue, which, with the help of the likes of Mrs Colas, is helping to get the message across.
Paul Ayre, managing partner at Gordons, found the talk on menopause enlightening. He said: “A majority of our staff, and many of our clients, are female and this is a real life issue which has largely been ignored.”
It is thought that there are around 3.5million working UK women who could be going through the menopause.
GROWING UNDERSTANDING OF THE ISSUE
Every woman will go through the menopause but each experience is different.
Although it doesn’t happen at a set age, the average age is 52, and it can result in a variety of difference symptoms.
The menopause, which can last between two and five years, is the time when a woman’s monthly period stops.
It is estimated around two-thirds of women experience the most common symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats. Some women also report psychological symptoms. Visit nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause.