Separating fact from fiction…
When it comes to menopause there are often more myths than facts which can make it incredibly confusing what to believe. The feedback we hear time and time again from the amazing organisations we work with is that education is key. So much of the feedback from those that attend training or use information provided from credible, accurate sources can be life-changing for those experiencing the symptoms of menopause.
So what are some of those myths?
1. Menopause is all about hot flushes
For many, we know hot flushes can be a really challenging part of menopause, but this isn’t the case for everybody. Symptoms can be physical and psychological and can vary from one person to the next. It’s so important we don’t make assumptions about what someone is experiencing so we can be flexible in the support that’s provided.
2. Menopause happens only to those over 45
Menopause can happen at any age. The average age of reaching menopause in the UK is 51. It normally occurs between the ages of 45-55, it can be into the mid 60s but it can also be earlier either naturally or due to certain surgeries or medical conditions. Menopause between 41 and 45 is classed as early menopause. Before the age of 40 it’s known as premature menopause. Providing the right information and signposting for anyone experiencing premature or early menopause is a great way for organisations to support their colleagues. Also, perimenopause (the period of time leading up to menopause) can last for many years. It can be very normal for someone in their early 40s to be experiencing menopausal symptoms.
3. Menopause affects only half the population
This was the #choosetochallenge from our founder and director Deborah Garlick for International Women’s Day. We believe menopause can affect everyone either experiencing symptoms directly or through someone they’re supporting at home or at work. We are finding more diverse audiences attending our sessions. Recently a 23 year old shared a blog after attending the session explaining why everyone needs to know about menopause.
4. Menopause is a ‘natural’ transition for all
This can be a challenging myth to explain as menopause is a biological phase all women will go through. However, for someone going through menopause due to surgery or certain medical conditions it doesn’t feel like a ‘natural’ process as their body is being pushed into menopause. We speak to many women who’ve had a medically or surgically induced menopause who say the word “natural” leaves them feeling excluded from the conversation. Organisations can play a huge role in considering the language they use around menopause.
5. Menopause is a time where you just have to get on with it
We hear from thousands of women who have felt their symptoms or experiences were dismissed as something you just have to get on with. Often this is a held belief, and we want to challenge this. Menopause isn’t always an easy transition, with three in four experiencing symptoms and one in four serious symptoms. But there is help available and no one should be suffering in silence. Organisations can help by providing signposting to accurate information to enable informed choices around support and treatment options. Also, by empowering those going to see their GP in how to have a good conversation about menopause.
6. Everyone’s experience of menopause is the same
It can be very hard not to use our lived experience to influence our beliefs. In the first menopause tribunal we’re aware of (Ms Merchant vs. BT) the line manager made assumptions stating his wife hadn’t experienced menopause in this way and used this as opposed to listening to the evidence provided before making decisions.
“It is self evident that all women will experience their menopause in different ways and with differing symptoms and degrees of symptoms.” Employment Tribunal decision in Merchant v BT plc (2012)
7. Women know what to expect
There is an assumption that women know what’s coming with menopause but often they don’t. So many women are taken by surprise as this is not something that we’re educated on. Most women find out about menopause when they’re in the throes of trying to manage symptoms and understand what is going on with their bodies. One male senior leader we worked with said the most surprising thing from the session he attended on menopause was how many women, potentially of menopausal age, knew very little about menopause and what they could do to manage symptoms.
Organisations can play such a crucial role in supporting anyone experiencing symptoms, helping them understanding what is happening and, most importantly, what they can do to manage their symptoms. Add to that the support that can be provided in the workplace. There are so many organisations that are getting this right, busting myths and supporting everyone to be their best at work.
What are you doing in your workplace? Do you want help keep busting myths? Join in the conversation with other menopause friendly organisations.
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Or get in touch: Menopause@henpicked.net
Sally Leech is the Training Director at Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace.