Author of the best-selling book “Everything You Need To Know About The Menopause“, and producer of Davina McCall’s Channel 4 documentaries on menopause “Sex, Myths And The Menopause“, Kate sat down with CrunchyTales to discuss the stigma surrounding perimenopause and menopause.
In this exclusive interview, she revealed what businesses can do to better support their menopausal employees and concluded with a powerful message to anyone nearing menopause age: “you won’t want to miss this“.
Kate, why do you believe there is such a stigma around menopause?
I think there’s been a huge silence around menopause, and it needs to become a cacophony and then a symphony.
Menopause is so inextricably linked with ageing, being on the shelf and no longer being fertile, being old and grumpy; witchy and old crony and all those other horrible things. Women are now being honest about it, and there is largely a solution if they have problems with menopause, which is the Body Identical HRT, which is incredibly safe.
Now that we can have our own hormones back, the idea that we have to suffer and we have to hide that suffering, I think is just about over.
What is your message for people who are about to go through menopause, and who may not know what to expect?
Well, my theory is that women in their 40s need to know about perimenopause because it’s menopause’s dastardly little sister.
It moves by stealth, you don’t know it’s coming because you’ve still got your periods or even if they’re erratic, you still think that everything is normal, but your hormones are on a huge rollercoaster.
They’re going up and down, your progesterone is going down and your oestrogen is zigzagging up and down. So, some people experience this incredible surge and then sudden depression, and it is a nightmare.
What we know now is because of that huge poll of 4,000 women interviewed between 45 and 55, most of them in the perimenopause bracket. What we found was 69% were suffering from anxiety and depression, 84% from lack of sleep, and 70% had hot flushes – hot flushes come even before you’re menopausal!
Those mental health changes are really serious. So, the 73% that suffered memory problems and brain fog were in that perimenopausal as well as menopausal period. You’re in your forties and thinking, ‘oh, I’m multitasking, I’m doing a job, I’ve got kids, I’ve got ageing parents, and I’m running a marathon – I’m doing all these things.’
Then, you’re going bonkers, and you can’t multitask anymore, and you blame it on yourself, and you blame it on the amount of stuff landing on you. Actually, what is happening is that your hormones are just all over the shop and there’s almost nothing you can do about it until you can work out where you are.
Your symptoms are telling you, ‘this is bad,’ then you’re told, ‘you could get hormone replacement therapy.’ It’s better to know what’s happening in your brain. That’s one of the things I’m trying to teach people from the research I’ve done into the menopausal brain. It really, really helps to know why things are going wrong and why things are difficult and why you’re anxious, because you can do something about it.
How can businesses and organizations better support their employees experiencing menopause?
I think this is a huge issue for businesses. We did a survey when working on the Channel 4 documentary with Davina McCall, which showed that 1/10 women left work due to menopause. Now that’s massive, it’s a decimation of the workforce.
If you think about it, say in the NHS (the British National Health Service), 50% of nurses are over 50 and a third of them want to leave their jobs. You think about a 50-year-old nurse and a 22-year-old nurse and the experience that the 50-year-old nurse has with handling emergencies and empathy and, you know, dealing with ridiculous people – you cannot buy that kind of experience back.
It’s incredibly important for businesses to keep these wise, experienced, smart women.
A lot of people have jumped on this bandwagon and chucked a menopause policy on their website and then put out a press release saying, ‘we have a menopause policy and we’re making adjustments for women.’ But women are still afraid to come and talk to people, to talk to male and female managers. Younger female managers don’t necessarily know about it.
You absolutely need to open the conversation and you need to have everybody in a room, men and women, and often women on their own too, and have a chat with a doctor or menopause expert and really play with the subject. You must let it all out and not feel that the workplace is not a place where this should be discussed.