When I hadn’t started experiencing menopausal symptoms by my mid-forties, I thought I might have dodged a bullet. Not all women struggle with issues like crime scene periods and bed-soaking night sweats. In fact, in some countries, women rarely report hot flushes, for instance.
I may have even given myself a tiny pat on the back. Maybe exercising regularly and eating a healthy, largely vegetarian diet was doing the trick.
Ha. Not long afterward, Mother Nature smacked me upside the head.
First, came the periods that ended up making me too anemic to donate blood. Thankfully, a birth control pill helped with that.
Then came the night sweats and interrupted sleep. Night sweats is much too innocuous sounding a term. I’d wake up and have to strip everything off and change because everything I’d worn to bed was wringing wet.
From hot flashes and Niagara-Falls-worthy sweating spells to a bout of depression so deep I didn’t think I’d be able to find my way out, over the next several years I continued to experience issues I believe were menopause-related, despite taking combination hormone therapy.
One saving grace (besides no periods, which, let me tell you, is pretty great): because I’ve been self-employed and worked from home for decades, I didn’t have to struggle with symptoms in front of co-workers, or ask my boss to switch to a cooler work space, or for time off work to see my doctor.
Most women aren’t so lucky. Yet many are still reluctant to raise the subject in the workplace.
I was asked to write about why menopause should be discussed at work, and what employers could be doing to support employees during this normal life transition for the Globe Women’s Collective. You can find out what I learned in this story: ‘We Should Be Talking About Menopause at Work’.
A big thank-you to Dr. Jen Gunter for so generously sharing her time and expertise. A widely-published writer in her own right, Dr. Gunter is an OB/GYN and outspoken advocate who is dedicated to helping women better understand how their bodies work, so they can make better informed decisions around their reproductive health. She is the author of The Vagina Bible, and The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health With Facts and Feminism.
An interesting aside. While doing some background research for this column, I discovered that the UK seems to be ahead of Canada in examining menopause-related workplace issues, and employers adopting menopause-specific policies. If you’re interested, I’ve posted links to a few resources below.
An Interactive Guide to Menopause at Work, Wales TUC (Trade Union organization)
Let’s Talk Menopause resources, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development