Roughly half of UK workers are women, all of whom will experience menopause. There are currently 3.5 million women workers over the age of 50 in the UK, which is almost half (45%) of the over-50 workforce. (Office of NationalStatistics,2010.) … In the UK the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 52. An estimated 1% of women under 40, and 0.1% of women under 30 are affected by premature menopause. Around eight out of 10 women in the UK experience symptoms in the run-up to the menopause.
Women are still not routinely being educated, or informed, of either the hormonal journey or of the possible effects of those changes.
Perimenopause is the commencement of key female hormones fluctuating and decreasing. Menopausal symptoms can begin despite a menstrual cycle continuing during this time; albeit that the cycle can become erratic and unpredictable and this can occur between the ages of 45- 55 years. Menopause commences at least 2 years after menstruation ceases, but hormones will still be changing and menopausal symptoms can continue to be experienced usually between the ages of 55 – 65years old.
Clearly every woman’s journey will be entirely unique & dependant on her genetic, health & lifestyle choices.
The possible symptoms are many and will be entirely individual. They can include the following but none exhaustive list of: hot flushes, night sweats; insomnia, weight gain, erratic emotions and therefore behaviour; panic attacks; heart palpitations; skin & hair changes; taste & food tolerance changes & digestive issues; immunity issues; bladder & bowel changes.
Even if a woman has no apparent symptoms, her body is still undertaking an immense & intense hormonal change. For the women who are struggling with those changes, they need to be appropriately supported in the workplace and by fellow colleagues.
So how can this hormonal journey play out in the workplace?
- As noted progesterone decreases first and is the calming hormone, so a woman may begin experiencing loss of regular sleep pattern & an inability to wind down at night.
- Lack of sleep at this time of life has a profound impact on day to day functioning.
- Mood can deteriorate due to the reduction in progesterone, causing irritability and intolerance.
- Progesterone also significantly contributes to cognitive interruption i.e. losing train of thought during a conversation or action.
- With the reduction of oestrogen production, the physical symptoms listed above can become evident. Unpredictable and constantly changing hormone levels can lead to erratic emotions and feelings.
- This has a significant effect on women’s sense of wellbeing and personal comfort and should not be underestimated. Women can feel afraid, alone and isolated if they do not understand or feel able to share concerns during this phase.
- As testosterone diminishes drive and energy can be reduced and depressive symptoms can be attributed to the lack of this hormone.
- Cortisol & Adrenaline stress hormones are dominant during peri-menopause and can mimic sensations such as anxiety and nervousness.
- Therefore a woman’s self-confidence can take a battering as performance at work can be greatly affected by this change when it is not understood or appropriately supported.
- This can lead to a downward spiral of mood and become a vicious cycle.
These may impact on mood, performance and confidence at work. It is important that managers who notice these changes in with female staff of this age acknowledge it and have a conversation with employees to try and understand this impact and how they can support them to perform well.
There are numerous simple steps which women can take to support themselves. But it is also important to know when to seek assistance from a professional & what can be achieved from both routes.
If you are not sure whether or not you are entering menopause, you can request that your GP undertakes a blood test to check your hormonal levels. Then you can ask to be talked through the artificial hormone supports they have available. HRT medications are set at a certain consistent level which can work well for some women, although HRT will only delay the menopause and not ‘cure it’. HRT is not the only route; there are naturally synthesized progesterone and oestrogen creams which can be locally applied on the body & therefore a woman can have more control over her hormonal fluctuations. This has had great results from numerous women, especially as menopausal hormones fluctuate in level constantly and can therefore be adjusted on a dose by dose basis.
Naturally there are numerous simple tools; as small as taking the time to consciously and deeply breathe for a few minutes at regular intervals throughout the day.
- This is both calming and helps the body detox; 60% of our detoxing occurs through our breath, so breath consciously.
- This will help impact on the night sweats & therefore sleep pattern as our organs work significantly at around 3am to detoxify the body of toxins.
- If you are breathing deeply enough throughout the day then the body will not have to work so hard through the night to purify your system.
- Stay hydrated, women’s cells loose the capacity to retain water throughout this change and so hydration is vital for detoxing as well as mental and mood symptoms.
- Wear layers of clothes if you are suffering from heat.
- Make sure you are sitting near ventilation points at work.
JoRae Women’s Hormonal Health & Wellbeing Coach www.alchemywoman.com
She runs women’s workshops exploring symptoms, effects and various support systems to put in place to make the journey one of power, not dis-empowerment. She also performs stand up comedy on menstruation and menopause and delivers her workshops and comedy into organisations and locally around Worcestershire.