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How menopause affects our colleagues

07 September 2022

Understanding what it’s like to go through menopause will help ensure we can empathise effectively and provide support.

How menopause affects our colleagues
Sarah Jones will run a webinar to help increase understanding of the menopause. Image credit: Sarah Jones

While I’ve been investigating the menopause, I’ve learned that it affects every single person differently.

The range of symptoms, ages, and how to cope, is vast.

You could say it’s a metaphor for life – what works for you may not work for me, and what works for me today may not in three months’ time.

We all need to develop our coping strategies, and hopefully this blog and my webinar will help us all to do that.

We all remember what it was like to be a teenager, when our hormones were raging.

Well, the menopause is the same, but at the other end of our life.

I’d like to share some of the effects this hormonal change can have on your female colleagues, to help us empathise and give the right support so that our colleagues can still perform effectively to the best of their ability.

What is the menopause?

In women, the hormones estrogen and progesterone are very important for the development of the reproductive system and female body characteristics.

Estrogen also contributes to cognitive health, bone function and the cardiovascular system.

Men and women both produce estrogen. Women just produce more of it. The levels vary among individuals.

The levels also fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and over a female’s lifetime.

The menopause is when the ovaries become unable to produce estrogen and progesterone.

Normally, this happens naturally when women are older and their ovaries have few remaining egg cells.

The average age is 51, but the menopause can occur much earlier (known as the perimenopause), or later.

What are the symptoms of the menopause?

Menopausal symptoms, such as the so-called ‘hot flush’ and brain fog, affect about 70% of women.

However, other factors are major contributors to the symptoms, such as weight, smoking, alcohol consumption, and medication.

I’m 56 now, and I guess I’m in the menopause.

It’s a bit hard to tell when it started, because I had a hysterectomy (a surgical procedure to remove the womb, after which you can’t get pregnant) eight years ago, so I didn’t have the usual sign of my periods stopping.

Hot flushes seem to be my main symptom, but again, this was a gradually emerging thing, as I’ve always been a ‘hot’ person.

In the last year, I’ve noticed increased joint and muscle stiffness, particularly my thumbs after gardening.

The other commonly reported symptoms are brain fog or emotional ups and downs.

Though not being able to find the right word, or forgetting what I came into a room for affects my husband as well as me!

I’m not having big changes in my mood, but then I didn’t during my periods either (except for maybe being a bit teary).

Yes, as I’ve got older, I’ve become more intolerant of people’s/government’s inability to ‘do things properly’, and perhap I’m a bit grumpier than I used to be.

Friends have reported more extreme symptoms, such as:

  • Bad headaches
  • Tinnitus
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of confidence
  • Breaking down in tears
  • Being anxious
  • Muscle aches and pains

Meanwhile, our bodies are shutting down the reproductive system, and so our sex drive isn’t needed anymore, and we can lose interest in that, and many other things.

What can we do to support our colleagues going through menopause?

Sources of information about the menopause are improving all the time.

To learn more, we suggest the following resources:

If you want to know more about the types of effects that can occur during menopause, and what you can do about them, either for yourself, a colleague or friend, please join us on the 12 October at my webinar.

Attend the webinar

  • Sarah Jones, chief civil engineer at EDF New Nuclear Build