NHS Blood and Transplant People First

Menopause

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.

Most women will experience menopausal symptoms. Some of these can be quite severe and have a significant impact on your everyday activities.

The Stages of Menopause

The menopause has three stages of transition:

  • Perimenopause: Starts with irregular cycles, even though you may first notice symptoms you can still become pregnant. This first stage can take 3 – 5 years.
  • Menopause: This is when you have your last period and you may start to notice more symptoms.
  • Postmenopause: This begins when you hit the 1-year mark from your last period. You are then referred to as postmenopausal for the rest of your life.

The whole transition can take 10 – 15 years.

There is also Early Menopause, which can be caused by several events other than natural ageing:

  • Hysterectomy
  • Premature ovarian failure (genetic)
  • Surgery or cancer treatments
  • Trauma or sudden loss.

What are the symptoms of the menopause?

There are 34 accepted symptoms of the menopause:

COMMON SYMPTOMS

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods
  • Loss of libido
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings

CHANGES

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Sleep disorders
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory lapses
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Incontinence
  • Bloating
  • Allergies
  • Brittle nails
  • Changes in odour
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Panic Disorder

PAINS

  • Breast pain
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Burning tongue
  • Electric shocks
  • Digestive problems
  • Gum problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Itchy skin
  • Tingling extremities

OTHERS

  • Osteoporosis

How can the menopause affect the workplace?

Individuals going through the stages of the menopause can suffer with any of the symptoms listed above, to a greater or lesser degree. The most common symptoms of hot flushes, sleep disturbance, mood swings, mental health issues, fatigue, forgetfulness and lack of concentration, will most likely have some effect on the workplace.

The effects on a woman’s physical and emotional health will significantly impact how they are able to do their work and the relationships they have in the workplace.

It can be difficult for women when they go through the menopause, not just at work. However, the demands of the job, the pressure of deadlines and obligation and the peer pressure from colleagues often make any problems worse in the workplace.

A hot flush struck when they’re right in the middle of an important meeting and they were left sweating, red-faced and struggling. Their inability to sleep last night has left them with brain fog or they haven’t been as bright and cheery as usual.

Relationships can suffer if irritability and lack of sleep mean that a normally very tolerant individual becomes less forgiving of that colleague who talks constantly.

Menopause Graph

What support can NHSBT give me?

  • Workplace adjustments can be put in place to support you during this time in your life. Speak to your line manager and discuss the issues you are having. Agree a plan of action and use the Tailored Adjustment Agreement Recording Tool to record what you agree. Any agreements should be reviewed regularly to make sure they are still suitable and effective for you.
  • Suggestions of adjustments which might be possible include; flexible working, alternatives for uniforms, additional toilet breaks, good availability of drinking water, better temperature control i.e. fans / ventilation, time off to attend medical appointments.
  • Individual risk assessments can be done to assess if there are any increased risks to yourself or to the work you do due to your symptoms.
  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – this is a free and confidential service available to all NHSBT employees and is available 24 hours a day / 365 days a year. They can be a listening ear for any emotional issues you might be experiencing, or they can support you with more practical matters about your work or family life.
  • Occupational Health – the occupational health service has a medical helpdesk, which you can call for any generic medical advice about any condition and how it can affect you in the workplace. There is also a self-referral option where you can access an OH advisor to talk through your personal situation, however your line manager would not be given any output from this if any adjustments were recommended in the workplace.

Where can I get further support and information?

  • Your GP
  • Your Union
  • Health food shops – can advise on natural remedies to alleviate symptoms.
  • Self-help groups / Forums

Self-help Remedies

By no means are any of the following a means to STOP menopause symptoms, but they can help ease the transition. You could also keep a diary of your symptoms to see if there is a pattern

NATURAL REMEDIES – and what symptom/s they help. Recommended to try for a minimum of 4 months. Available from local supermarkets and health food shops.

  • Black Cohosh – Flushes
  • Sage – memory and flushes
  • St Johns Wart – low moods and reduce anxiety
  • Vitamin e, supplement or cream – dry skin and vaginal dryness
  • Star flower oil – healthy skin and helps regulate hormone levels
  • Evening primrose oil – healthy skin and helps regulate hormone levels
  • FX tablets – increase energy, wellbeing, sleep, flushes and joints.
  • Ginseng – mood symptoms, sleep disturbance an overall sense of wellbeing.

INSTANT RELIEF

  • Cool off citrus ice towelettes
  • Thera med collar cold pack
  • Cool gel pillow

DIET

  • Eat foods with phytoestrogens – these have oestrogen like effects on the body. Such as soy beans and soy products, linseed (flax), sesame seeds, oats, barley, lentils, celery, chick peas and kidney beans.
  • Fish oils – for joint pains, dry skin and vaginal dryness. Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel.

GRADUALLY cut back on caffeine – as this aggravates hot flushes.

EXERCISE

  • Any form of exercise for 75 – 150 minutes a week can help against weight gain, joint pain, loss of muscle mass, relive stress and low moods.
  • Get adequate rest and relaxation
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