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Fact Sheet: Women, Work & Menopause

Women’s experience of menopause, and how it affects their working life, is diverse.

 

The Upside

50 per cent of women said their working lives had improved since the onset of menopause, according to a British study of nearly 200 women aged 50 to 64, conducted by the Social Issues Research Centre in 2002.

The Challenge

Other research suggests that almost 50 per cent of women find work more difficult due to menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes, fatigue and trouble concentrating.

 

What is menopause?

Menopause which occurs on average at age 51,  refers to the last or final menstrual period a woman experiences. When a woman has had no periods for 12 consecutive months she is considered to be “postmenopausal”.

The time before that, peri-menopause, lasts from four to eight years on average, and it’s when fluctuations in hormone levels can start causing a range of symptoms, according to the Australasian Menopause Society.

Symptoms are diverse and not all women experience them.  Research suggests that:

  • 20 per cent will have no symptoms at all
  • 60 per cent of women will have mild symptoms
  • 20 per cent will be severely affected, with symptoms continuing into their 60s or later.

Symptoms are usually most frequent and severe in the year around the final menstrual period, and can include:

  • Insomnia & fatigue
  • Mood changes inc symptoms of depression, anxiety
  • Bodily aches and pains
  • Hot flushes
  • Irregular and unpredictable bleeding
  • Brain fog including forgetfulness or trouble concentrating
  • Thinning hair
  • Reduced libido & vaginal dryness
  • Urinary issues

Let’s not forget other ‘symptoms’: confidence, speaking one’s mind, a sense of authority, steadiness, perspective, wisdom and a sense of liberation.

In the midst of peri-menopause, women often worry these symptoms will last forever. However it is a temporary life-stage (like puberty, except in reverse) and things eventually settle down for most women, either with time or treatment.

A supportive workplace makes a real difference!

La Trobe University’s research into 476 peri-menopausal and postmenopausal women, published in Menopause, 2016,  found that women who had supportive supervisors, were significantly less likely to report symptoms.

So does a positive attitude.

A positive attitudes towards other changes at midlife, have been found to enhance self-confidence and alleviate certain menopausal symptoms.  Cited in Maturitas 85 (2016) 88–95.

Looking for some support? Especially in relation to work?   Then check out The Change – a 7 wk confidential online program to help working women feel more confident, connected and able to cope.

And here is a list of resources (books, videos, articles) I found helpful.