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Menopause and the Workplace

January 25
11:54 2018

Image result for menopause at work

Menopause generally begins between the ages of 45 to 55, but can begin when a woman is only in her 30s. In some women, it may not start until after turning 60, eventually, under natural terms, menopause hits all women.

Basically, menopause begins when a woman’s ovaries stop producing two important hormones, estrogen and progesterone. This result is the eventual ceasing of menstruation. This to some women is a blessing, with no more periods and others a curse as they long for more children.

With the changes in hormones, a woman undergoes a number of symptoms. The symptoms can be mild and easily handled but they can also be severe and seemingly impossible to handle. They include lower sex drive, the infamous hot flashes, sweating, racing heart, vaginal dryness, painful sexual relations and trouble sleeping.

Another common symptom is mood swings. I recall one doctor comparing what happens to a woman during menopause to different currents of water meeting in a river system or in the ocean. It often causes turbulence, swirling currents, whirlpools, and many changes or shifts in the entire system. The same holds true with a woman’s moods during menopause.

A former co-worker of mine was bewildered when his wife would suddenly just start crying her eyes out or other times when no matter what anyone if the family did, she got upset and yelled at everyone around. These were so out of character for her, but it was discovered to be attributed to her undergoing menopause. Fortunately, she was a stay-at-home mom.

Many women don’t have the luxury of staying home, but have to be out earning an income in order too help provide for her family. What happens when these symptoms hit a woman in the workforce?

The BBC survey asked 1,009 women aged 50 to 60 how their experience of the menopause had affected their work and relationships and what their symptoms and treatment were.”

“The poll, by Comres for BBC Radio Sheffield and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, found 70% of women did not make their employer aware they were experiencing symptoms, while nearly a third said they had not visited their GP.”

“Nearly half of respondents said the menopause had affected their mental health, while a quarter said it made them want to stay at home.”

The survey has prompted some employers to consult with medical experts and made some changes to their policies to help accommodate female employees experiencing menopause. Some companies provided desk fans to help with the hot flashes and provide more flexibility in the workplace.

One example was the Nottingham Police, whose Chief, Sue Fish introduced new menopause policies. She explained why:

“I was horrified to find out women were leaving early because of the severity of their symptoms.”

“Some had been rebuffed by line managers or they’d chosen not to talk about what they were going through.”

“It was such a waste of all that talent and experience that these women had in serving the public.”

“Bringing in a policy was absolutely the right thing to do. Talking about it helped build a culture of openness.”

“I also had my own experiences of the menopause to draw on and I talked about it very candidly.”

“There was me, at the top of an organisation making difficult decisions, and I didn’t want anyone blaming those decisions on irrationality. It was quite a challenge to overcome.”

Hopefully, more employers here in America will also begin to understand that menopause is real and it can be limiting and even debilitating to some women. They need to follow examples like that of the Nottingham Police and be more considerate and understanding for their female employees. Like Chief Fish said, female employees are important and have a lot of talent and experience that would be a shame to waste.

If you have a female boss or supervisor, talk to her. She may be more understanding than you realize it could make things easier for you and for other women.

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HLA Staff

HLA Staff

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