Published: 10 May 2021. Produced in partnership with Peppy, with tips and advice from Kathy Abernethy, Director of Menopause Services at Peppy.
Not long ago, menopause was a topic of conversation many people wouldn’t dream of bringing up with friends, let alone at work.
But times are changing. Women are living longer, working longer and speaking up about subjects that were historically brushed under the carpet.
“Of all the myths about menopause – and there are so many – the one that I come back to time and time again is that menopause is just a women’s issue,” says Kathy Abernethy, a menopause specialist with over 30 years working in menopause clinics and Director of Menopause Services at digital healthcare app, Peppy.
It’s true that menopause will affect 100% of women, but it will also impact those around them. This includes friends, family, partners, colleagues and managers.
“I believe menopause will touch all of us at some point in our lives,” says Kathy.
Whether you have personal experience of going through menopause or not a clue what menopause actually means, it’s vital you know how to support those around you as they go through one of life’s most natural, but most under-supported, journeys.
Here are some tips from an expert that might help.
First and foremost, educate yourself
You don’t need to have a degree in biology to talk confidently about menopause (although we’re pleased that, in 2020, menopause entered the national curriculum for the first time), but these facts will help.
- ‘Menopause’ refers to the last ever period you have
- The average age of menopause is 51, but it usually happens between the ages of 45-55
- For one in 100 women, menopause will start under the age of 40
- And for one in 1,000 women, menopause will start under the age of 30
- ‘Perimenopause’ is the time around menopause, when the body is preparing for menopause and the first year afterwards – it can last months or even years
- Nearly three quarters of people experiencing menopause will have symptoms
- Symptoms can include hot flushes, sweats, tiredness, poor memory, concentration problems, vaginal dryness and bladder issues, plus symptoms of anxiety, low mood and insomnia.
Want to learn more? Women’s Health Concern is the patient arm of the British Menopause Society. Download easy-to-understand explainer resources, all for free (www.womens-health-concern.org).
We also recommend best-selling books, ‘Menopause: The One Stop Guide’ by Kathy Abernethy and ‘Men, it’s time to talk about Menopause’ by Ruth Devlin.
How to support colleagues
Know the signs
Make yourself aware of the symptoms that your colleagues who are going through menopause are experiencing. Your awareness will help you foster a culture of openness.
Changing someone’s experience of menopause at work could be as simple as moving their place of work (whether that’s to the chilled aisle of a supermarket or to a desk near the loo). Be open-minded and try to work together to find the best solution.
Try to be kind and considerate towards your colleagues if you know they’re going through menopause, or even if you suspect. Let them know that your door is always open to talk.
Know the support available
As an employee and particularly as a manager, it’s so important that you understand the pathway of support available in your organisation. Do you offer a menopause café? Do you have a menopause policy? Are there any upcoming events you can suggest to your team members?
If you don’t feel your workplace is doing enough, speak to your HR, Benefits or Wellbeing team.
And remember, if your colleague is a member of Vitality, they could have access to expert-led menopause support via the Peppy app, at absolutely no extra cost to your organisation or them.
How to support friends and family
Sometimes, it’s as simple as just asking. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, try asking “What can I do to help?” or “How can I make this easier?”.
Don’t make fun.
With friends and family, it can be tempting to make their hot flushes the butt of a joke. Try not to – a lot of people won’t see their menopause symptoms as a laughing matter.
Stay in touch
Particularly now, we all need to stay connected. Drop them a text, a call or an email – about anything, not just menopause! Keep lines of communication open, and they’ll be more likely to come to you if they’re struggling.
How to support partners
Be there for them.
Sit with your partner, let them tell you how they’re feeling and discuss their treatment options together. Help them make the choice that’s right for them.
Don’t take things personally
Menopause is a journey of highs and lows. If they need to vent, let them vent! But remember, this time will pass.
Build on your strengths
Focus on your strengths as a couple and make time for the activities that make you happiest together. Menopause is a time of huge change, but you can also choose to see it as the start of an exciting chapter of your life together.
Do you still have questions about menopause? Here are the 10 answers to your biggest menopause questions.
Vitality offers menopause support at no extra cost with private health insurance. If you’re a qualifying Vitality health insurance member, log into Member Zone to find out how you can use the Peppy service.