Supporting Menopause in the Workplace

With around 5.1 million women in the UK aged between 45 and 55 years, a large range of women are potentially menopausal, and this comes at a time when they are at the prime of their professions and personal relationships.

Mr Tim Hillard, consultant gynaecologist and British Menopause Society accredited menopause specialist at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital explains what the menopause is, what can happen if it is not addressed and how to manage symptoms.

“The menopause is the point in a woman’s life when periods become more irregular, or infrequent until they stop.  It’s caused by a natural hormonal transition as the ovaries stop producing oestrogen and is something every woman will face. The average age of the menopause is around 51 but symptoms can start years earlier as the oestrogen levels begin to decline. There’s no specific amount of time for which a woman may experience symptoms, but on average it can last for about seven years from the last period. However, it varies and whilst some women hardly experience symptoms others may experience symptoms for 10 years or more.”

“While some may sail through the menopause with the mildest of symptoms, for many women there can be a variety of symptoms affecting the body from head to toe.  

“Women can experience hot flushes, impaired sleep and memory, increased anxiety and depression, weight gain, joint problems, and a lack of libido.  For those experiencing extreme symptoms it can feel devastating; a nightmare of anxiety, confusion, depression, pain and exhaustion to the point where their daily routine becomes a struggle.

“Many women don’t seek help to address the menopause either because they do not want to accept that they are at that stage of their life, or they’re not aware that anything can be done, or symptoms are so mild help is not necessary.

“For those seeking relief, possible treatments include lifestyle changes and non-prescribed and prescribed treatments.”

Mr Hillard emphasises that women can help manage symptoms themselves by looking at lifestyle choices, diet, keeping well hydrated, reducing caffeine and alcohol, and exercising regularly.

He continues: “Non-prescribed treatments such as acupuncture or complementary therapies such as aromatherapy may help, although the effects of these therapies are not well known. Cognitive behavioural therapy can also be a useful way of dealing with more distressing symptoms.

“Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most common form of prescribed treatment. HRT is available in many different formulations, as tablets, skin patches, a gel to rub into the skin, a spray or implants and this treatment restores the female hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. There’s no doubt that when prescribed appropriately HRT can bring relief.

“HRT can also prevent thinning of the bones, which can lead to osteoporosis, and reduce the risk of heart disease in later life. This is particularly important for women going through an early menopause and those with particular risk factors such as a family history. However, it’s important to remember that HRT is a medical intervention and there are potential side-effects.  In particular, there’s a small increase in the risk of breast cancer and blood clots. Although these can be minimised by choosing the appropriate type of treatment, there are some women who would be advised not to take HRT.  For the vast majority of women, the evidence suggests that the benefits of HRT usually outweigh the risks and this is the best option. The research and our understanding is constantly improving and newer treatment options are also becoming available.

“How to manage the menopause is a personal choice, and the different treatments available should enable women to access what works best for them. The important things to discuss with healthcare professionals are the symptoms, treatments, and any concerns so that every choice is tailored to an individual.”

Mr Hillard is an experienced gynaecologist with a special interest in menopause and uro-gynaecology.  He is an accredited Menopause Specialist, a past President of the British Menopause Society and the current Editor of Climacteric, the Journal of the International menopause Society. To book a consultation with Mr Hillard at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital call 07585377911 0r email

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