Demystifying menopause

Story by Dianne Hancock.

Menopause, one of those mysteries that confuses both men and women but is rarely talked about. The dictionary definition is “the period in a woman’s life (typically between 45-50) when menstruation stops”.

This is hugely unhelpful as the menopause can occur as early as 21 years of age and as late as 65 years. No two women are the same in their symptoms nor in how they cope with what feels like a huge change in their personal life, identity and self-worth.

Menopause affects transgender, non-binary, intersex people, and also 20% of men who experience a similar hormonal disruption called the andropause when their testosterone levels decrease.

I spoke to Diane Evans from Menopause Matters. Diane is a menopause health facilitator and runs workshops for individuals, managers and organisations. She supports women who want to understand more about how to negotiate their menopause and how to ask for support in the workplace and at home. There is a lot of negativity around ageing and for this reason, many women don’t want to talk about difficult menopausal symptoms at work.

Diane says:

“If you’re a manager in an organisation, it is your duty of care to know about anything that may affect your team. Menopause is generally thought of as a “woman’s issue”, but actually it affects everybody. Although it’s not a protected characteristic in its own right, it comes under the Disability at Work Act because some of the symptoms can be classed as a disability. More and more cases are being taken to industrial tribunals now because organisations don’t understand this.

“I want to encourage an open dialogue between individuals and the workplace so that individuals can get a better deal. Women are working longer now that the retirement age has been raised and we need to support those women when they face this hormonal disruption. Some women sail through the menopause and some find the condition very debilitating.”

Luckily, there is more information available about managing this stage of your life. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition and mindful exercise such as yoga, can make a significant difference to menopausal symptoms. Herbal remedies such as Black Cohosh or Red Clover can relieve the symptoms of sleep disruption, hot flushes or mood swings. An alternative could be Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) which has been subject to a lot of scaremongering and misinformation, but for some women it can make a significant difference to their mental and physical well-being. Again, the message is that no two people are the same and making informed choices about your health is vital. It’s worth remembering that if you’re in a relationship with a woman and they’re going through this change, you’re actually traveling that menopause journey together.

For more support and information:

To access free articles, information and track your symptoms you can download Dr. Louise Nerwson’s free Balance app for your devices.

Menopause symptoms.

Menopause symptoms may include:

  1. Hot flashes
  2. Night sweats
  3. Vaginal dryness
  4. Decreased sex drive
  5. Breast soreness
  6. Irregular periods
  7. Bloating
  8. Headaches
  9. Mood swings
  10. Fatigue
  11. Depression
  12. Anxiety
  13. Irritability
  14. Panic disorder
  15. Joint pain
  16. Changes to sense of taste
  17. Itchiness
  18. Tingling extremities
  19. Electric sensations
  20. Burning mouth
  21. Digestion changes
  22. Muscle aches
  23. Disrupted sleep
  24. Thinning hair
  25. Osteoporosis
  26. Irregular heartbeat
  27. Weight gain
  28. Memory lapses
  29. Concentration lapses
  30. Brittle nails
  31. Incontinence
  32. Dizziness
  33. Allergies
  34. Body odour