Menopause in the workplace

Should more organisations have menopause policies?
21 September 2021

Interview with 

Dorothy Byrne, Murray Edwards College Cambridge; Heather Currie, Menopause Matters




Adam Murphy spoke with Heather Currie about managing the menopause, and both heard how Dorothy Byrne helped to introduced one of the first workplace policies when she was at Channel 4…

Dorothy - A lot of what a menopause policy is about is drawing together all the other policies that already exist. So it's not about a company spending lots of money. A lot of managers don't know anything about the menopause. So the first thing is to inform everybody about how severe the effects of the menopause can be. About a quarter of women suffer really significant problems, which often make them feel like giving up work. Secondly, it's to explain to women themselves, if you feel ill because of the menopause, you feel ill. So just as you wouldn't go to work, or you might come in a bit late if you felt really ill for another reason, it's fine to take time off because you feel really ill about the menopause. And then the third part of it is that we brought in doctors to explain the menopause to women and to tell them the facts about HRT. A lot of GPs don't know much about the menopause and give women the wrong information and tell them they just have to put up with it. So most of the policy is in fact about education and it also makes older women feel valued. You know, we are wanted round here. So I think it gives a very important message in that way too.

Adam - So Heather, what do you think of that? Do you think that that kind of thinking is a good idea, practical to introduce across the board?

Heather - Yeah, it's absolutely fantastic. And we are hearing more and more organisations that are developing menopause frameworks and policy. And as was described, it's really just about giving information, both to the women and their families and the people that they work with and anyone that is around them so they can have a better understanding of what's going through and what the options are.

Adam - And then what other sorts of support or non-pharmacological measures are available. I'm thinking sort of like the psychological end of things. It's a massive change.

Heather - It is a massive change. And actually what has also been shown to help menopausal symptoms, particularly the disturbed sleep that we've heard about that can have a huge impact, the flushes to some extent, and also the mood changes is cognitive behavioral therapy. And that's been shown to be really, really helpful to help women just deal with what's happening to them. The most important thing in all of this, as we've referred to a little bit through the programme is the information, the education that needs to start from school. Women are well-prepared for, or girls prepared for periods, for contraception, for pregnancy. But we need them from a very early age to understand what's going to happen and what to look out for because often with women, they are not prepared, particularly for the mood symptoms. And often this goes on for a while, as we've heard already, before it's actually recognised to be hormonally related.

Adam - And then for anyone listening, who, who might be going through the menopause or starting to, what advice would you have for that person?

Heather - Don't dread it, first of all. We do hear lots of awful stories and some women are severely affected by the symptoms that can have a huge impact on their life, but that isn't for everyone. It's being forearmed. It's having access to accurate information so they know what to look for. They know that HRT is an option, not seeing it as something you shouldn't mention, but something that you want to talk about. So it's a natural phase, absolutely, but it can have a big impact on our symptoms, on our bone health, and also on our heart health. So it's being prepared to deal with it in the way that suits each women. There isn't a blanket approach. There isn't one method or treatment that suits everyone. It's finding the information, seeking support and individualising. That's the key.


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