What do we really think of the menopause?

Have you ever wondered just what we think of the menopause?

It’s a topic that’s being talked about more, which is great. But my interest in the menopause has been around for a while. Menopausal symptoms, women at work over the age of 50, surgical/hormone induced early menopausal and people’s perceptions around the topic of menopause have recently become uppermost in my spare time.

My day-to-day job is an Occupational Health Advisor. Following a chance comment during a presentation around the subject of menopauseI discovered an inquisitive interest around the subject. Especially as I had recently experienced early onset menopausal symptoms from cancer treatment and had returned to the workplace.

I started to introduce the subject of menopause to workplaces and to anybody who would listen, to try, and remove the stigma and taboo around the signs, symptoms and myths.

Shortly after my interest was piqued, a paper by The University of Leicester was published in 2017. In 2019, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published a website which I found informative. This includes information for managers and professionals

During the presentations to companies, unions and employees, I have noticed an air of ambivalence. However, once the subject of menopause is introduced, there is usually a great deal of discussion. This always opens up questions from both the men and women in the audience.

I have noted the women want to talk about help regarding their symptoms, for example hot flushes, mood swings, lack of sleep etc. The men often like to know the same, as well as how to approach the subject to their partners, family, friends and co-workers. There is a degree of embarrassment at first but as the subject is discussed, it usually becomes light-hearted and a fun session.

I decided to undertake small study on the perception of menopause, from both men and women.

  1. To see if there are any vast differences or, are they the same?
  2. What do people want or need to help one another both at home and at work.
  3. The aim of the study was to obtain from the male perspective what they know and think about the menopause.

I devised a questionnaire, which I sent out to a number of my contacts. In return, I received 167 completed ones, 42 from men aged 18-68 and 115 from women aged 19-71.

Here’s what I asked:

When did you become aware of the term menopause?

Male: Aged 1 to 40

Female: From teenage years to mid-30s

What symptoms do you associate with menopause?

M: Cold sweats; restless sleep; night sweats; irregular periods; hormone imbalance; hair loss; brittle bones; grumpy, women not having periods; severely short tempered. Weight gain;  dizziness; stress; hot flushes; inability to have children; hair growth; abdominal pain.

F: Hot flushes; sweating; headaches; lack of sleep; irritable; mood swings; lack of concentration. Change in bowel habits; sore breasts; menstrual cycle becomes irregular or ceases; night sweats; brain fog; change in sexual appetite; loss of confidence; vaginal dryness; osteoporosis; skin problems; aches and pains; palpitations; thinning hair; flooding; gaining weight; facial hair; loss of skin elasticity.

 

What would you like to know about the menopause?

M:

  • Does it affect men? How do you reduce effect on women?
  • What to expect
  • How to help women with moods, sweating and anxiety

F: 

  • How to stop it and coping mechanisms
  • Treatments or activities to ease symptoms
  • When to use hormone replacement therapy   how to manage the symptoms
  • Is HRT a good or bad thing?
  • Which alternative/herbal remedies work/are available?
  • Will HRT cause breast cancer?
  • Any natural diets and altering lifestyle to delay onset of menopause or how to combat symptoms when it starts instead of jumping straight to HRT
  • Does a coil work?
  • That it’s normal and OK to have certain feelings.
  • How to distinguish between menopause and other conditions
  • How best to support any close relatives that might experience it in the near future.
  • What are normal symptoms of the menopause and what can be done to safely alleviate some of the side effects?
  • How long it lasts from start to finish
  • Anything to relieve the symptoms and side effects, especially how it affects relationships
  • When is the average time it occurs and how “average” are the symptoms?
  • What men think about it in general
  • How to prepare for it – psychologically
  • What causes menopause to begin at an early age
  • What to expect and how to get your GP to run a test to check if you are going through menopause
  • Best practice for employers to support employee

When do you believe the menopause begins?

M: 40-50

F: 20-70

Conclusion

I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of people to be involved with this study. My conclusions were that education and communication is the key to removing the taboo and negative attitude towards the symptoms. This is not an “old” lady issue. It can affect women as young as late twenties with early onset menopause; through surgery. It is experienced very individually by everybody. This affects both men, women and younger people who are living with a person experiencing symptoms.

More education of GPs to help identify symptoms before the menopause and to signpost to support groups, medication, alternative therapies/medicine to help individuals make an informed choice.

Some women have told me they have had to give up their career when in the throws of the menopause – with hindsight, if they realised the correct sign posting and help, they would have been able to continue with their career.

More education, work place polices and support would be helpful to both employees and employers. Awareness and understanding would help bring about positive change at work.

I believe more studies are needed to understand if men do have similar symptoms and/ or hormonal issues as women during the same stage in life.

I feel this is the beginning of change both at work and at home.

Please let me know in the comments if you’d like to see the full study.


Rosalyn Jones

About Rosalyn Jones

I'm a mum, wife, sister, daughter and friend very passionate about helping others. I have both a professional and personal interest in the menopause and cancer - I had breast cancer and treatment recently, I am now fit and well. I have experienced many side effects from treatment and have had the good fortune of many friends who have helped source treatment and information. I would like to help disseminate this to others. I wish to stop the words cancer and menopause being taboo, ‘whispered behind hands’ and, at times, laughed at and/or ignored. I have a passion for evidence-based knowledge, and dissemination of this to the “working individual” has always been my aim as an Occupational Health Nurse. As well as my nursing career I have been involved in community projects such as in 2006, the ALAC (Active Learning for Active Citizenship)National Network. The West Midlands Hub was the only ALAC hub working exclusively for women at a time when gender issues had slipped down the policy agenda. The Hub recognised the specific barriers and opportunities that women encounter when becoming active citizens. The Hub engaged women and their families in effective community organising and increasing their ability and confidence to exert influence at the levels of policy and service delivery. In 2018 I became a volunteer for Breast Cancer Care.