Women can experience the menopause in different ways. While it is not an illness it brings with it physical changes to the body and a host of symptoms, many of which are uncomfortable and can seriously affect women both at home and at work. It also poses many workplace health and safety issues. The menopause is also still a “taboo” subject which women may find difficult to raise when they are having difficulties at work because of it. Often women may not even be aware that the symptoms they are experiencing are because of the menopause. So representing menopausal women members at work can be a difficult and a sensitive issue.
The menopause marks the end of menstruation. A woman’s periods do not usually stop suddenly, though this can happen. Reaching the menopause means the end of egg production (ovulation) and a reduction in the body's production of the hormone oestrogen. The menopause occurs on average at age 50. Onset is usually between 47-52, though it can occur at 40 or sometimes much earlier, or later. Breast cancer treatment and hysterectomy can cause women to have symptoms of the menopause or may cause an early menopause.
Not all women will experience the same symptoms, but the most common are:
• Hot flushes affecting the face and neck
• Night sweats
• Heavier and more irregular periods
• Weight gain
• General irritability
Women also complain of other problems such as short-term memory loss, nausea, need to urinate frequently, aches and pains, mood swings, dry skin and eyes, dizziness, tiredness and lack of energy. But don’t forget, some symptoms may occur for other reasons and you should encourage members to contact their GP for advice.
Women will also experience physical changes to their bodies particularly their reproductive organs. Many symptoms and physical changes to women's bodies after menopause result from the loss of oestrogen. After the menopause women may be more prone to heart attacks and strokes, acceleration of loss of bone bulk and osteoporosis and bladder trouble.
Please click on the links below to find out what you can do to support women affected by the menopause in the workplace
Women’s Health and Safety at Work Toolkit
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