In this brand-new blog series, we challenge some of the common myths and misconceptions around medical conditions and provide practical advice for employees and employers. In celebration of Menopause Awareness Month, we're debunking ten myths around the menopause.
Myth: The menopause only affects women
Fact: The menopause will directly affect everyone who is assigned female at birth, so non-binary people and trans men will experience it too. Family members, friends and colleagues can also be affected vicariously, so it is important to ensure that if someone you spend time with is menopausal, you are clued up on the symptoms and take them into account. This blog is a great way to start!
Myth: Only people aged 40 and over experience the menopause
Fact: Although this is largely true, for a very small percentage of people (around 1%), menopausal symptoms can start presenting before the age of 40. This is classed as premature menopause.
Myth: Menopausal women cannot get pregnant
Fact: You actually only hit true menopause once you’ve not had a period for 12 months. Before this point, you’re classified as being in perimenopause – this means your periods are irregular and you could still get pregnant.
Myth: There is no relief available for people going through the menopause
Fact: Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, can provide relief for debilitating symptoms such as hot flushes. To learn more about the options available, book an appointment with your GP or through your employer’s EAP. It should be noted though that HRT does not postpone the menopause, it will only improve your symptoms. There are also lots of things you can do to improve your symptoms naturally, such as maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and exercising regularly.
Myth: The menopause only lasts a couple of years
Fact: The journey from perimenopause all the way through to postmenopause generally lasts around 4 years, although it can be much longer, with symptoms sometimes persisting for over a decade.
Myth: If you have a hysterectomy, you won't go through the menopause
Fact: Total or partial hysterectomies actually accelerate the menopause – if you have a ‘surgical menopause’, symptoms are likely to come on more rapidly due to a drastic shift in female hormone levels.
Myth: The menopause makes you gain weight
Fact: Although declining oestrogen levels can contribute to weight gain, it’s not the only culprit. Weight gain is more likely as you get older due to changes in your body, such as a slowing metabolism and a decrease in muscle mass.
Myth: Hot flushes are the only symptom of the menopause
Fact: The menopause (including the perimenopausal stage) has a range of mental and physical symptoms, from low mood and brain fog to heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, and skin changes. View all the symptoms on the NHS site.
Myth: The menopause will kill your sex life
Fact: Although a reduced libido and vaginal dryness can be symptoms of the menopause, they vary from person to person and can be alleviated by everything from HRT to lubricant, to openly communicating with your partner and finding new ways to be intimate together.
Myth: There are no benefits to the menopause
Fact: The menopause is a natural stage of life that half the world’s population go through. Aside from not having to worry about any unplanned pregnancies, many people find that once they reach postmenopause, a whole host of symptoms are alleviated, such as premenstrual mood changes and bloating.
Top tips for employees:
Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your symptoms, it's normal!
Ask for any support you need (flexible working, fans, time to see the doctor)
Find other people you work with who are also experiencing the menopause and develop a supportive framework