Why menopause matters

8 March is International Women’s Day, CSP professional advisers Hannah Morley and Helen Harte ask members to start a conversation about menopause

Why menopause matters
Why menopause matters

Can you name something that impacts more than half of the UK population during their working lives, causing brain fog, insomnia, anxiety and joint pain? Something which nine out of ten of those experiencing it say has negatively impacted their work? 

These are just some of the 40 symptoms of menopause. It’s important to recognise that menopause is not a medical condition but is a natural part of the life course. 

The symptoms of menopause are caused by hormone deficiency (oestrogen and progesterone) which occurs when periods stop, typically between the ages of 45-55 but may be earlier.

It affects 13 million women in the UK at any one time, with 80 per cent experiencing additional menopause symptoms for some time after their periods stop. Think about that for a moment. 

It should also be noted that trans men and women may experience a natural or surgical menopause, depending on ovarian retention and use of hormone therapy (Rees et al, 2021). 

If you are not experiencing menopause yourself it is likely that a friend, colleague or patient is living with additional menopause symptoms. 

What you need to know about menopause as an employee and colleague:

  • 45 per cent of women going through menopause state they find their symptoms hard to manage (Wales TUC survey, 2017).
  • Health unions collectively state that menopause symptoms are an occupational health issue and an equality issue which contributes to the gender pay gap.
  • The British Menopause Society found that menopause remains a ‘taboo’ subject and is poorly understood. Typically, menopause has been seen as a private matter and not something that has been discussed openly. Starting a conversation with friends and colleagues can have a positive impact.

What you need to know about menopause as an employer or line manager:

  • Less than one per cent of workplaces had a menopause policy when investigated by the Wales TUC (2017)
  • Employers have a responsibility through the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) to assess conditions that specifically impact their employees such as menopause symptoms and a responsibility through the Equality Act (2010) to protect workers against discrimination. 
  • Flexible working policies and open communication about potential difficulties faced during menopause should be considered by all those with line management responsibility. See the ‘Building a better balance’ campaign by the CSP, which supports conversations around flexible working and practical advice to ensure flexible working patterns work for everyone.

What you need to know about menopause for the benefit of your patients:

  • As physiotherapists, we routinely see patients with joint pain, difficulty sleeping, low mood and anxiety. Learning about the symptoms and management of menopause may lead you to identify patients who are experiencing the menopause without appropriate diagnosis or management. 
  • Look to the pelvic, obstetric and gynaecological physiotherapy (POGP) professional network for further information and patient resources on menopause, genitourinary symptoms, and bone health.
  • Be aware that pelvic symptoms may act as a barrier to physical activity and exercise. In a government survey 84 per cent of women felt they were not listened to by their healthcare professional, therefore it is important you actively listen to your patients and are sensitive to their needs. 

This International Women’s Day, can you commit to learning more about the impact of menopause?

  • Start a conversation at work or at home about others’ experiences or understanding of menopause. We cannot improve the lives of those impacted by menopause without bringing discussions about it into the open. 
  • Does your organisation have a menopause policy? The Wales TUC menopause toolkit describes the importance of a specific workplace policy covering menopause. Other policies such as flexible working and sickness and performance management can be reviewed to ensure they take into account the needs of those living with menopause symptoms. 
  • Want to learn more about menopause and how you can identify menopause symptoms in your patients and signpost patients to the best advice? Why not sign up to an online course: – International Menopause Society’s online course – RCGP’s online course.

The CSP’s Professional Advice Service gives advice and support to members on complex and specialist enquiries about physiotherapy practice, including professional practice issues, standards, values and behaviours, international working, service design and commissioning, and policy in practice. Find out more.

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