It's world perimenopause day (er what is perimenopause I hear you ask?) and I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about my experience of it over the last four years and how it has impacted on my working life.
Perimenopause for most women can start in their early to mid forties (although 1 in 100 start before the age of 40 for me it was age 45) and refers to hormonal changes that take place up until the time a a woman's period stops. Your hormones control not only your mood but your energy, weight gain and stress levels and during the perimenopause years these can fluctuate wildly. Every woman is different and can experience different symptoms at different times. Typically it can last between 2-10 years!
According to UNISON around eight in ten women report having noticeable symptoms with 45% of those finding the symptoms hard to deal with.
Symptoms can include:
Hot flushes and/or night sweats
Anxiety and depression
Memory loss and brain fog
Mood swings (no clever comments here guys thank you!)
Muscle and joint pain
So what's that got to do with work?
There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture!
For me the main symptoms have been night sweats, hot flushes and brain fog. On the face of it that doesn't sound like much but when you are waking up 7 or 8 times a night feeling like you might spontaneously combust the lack of sleep can feel like torture. It makes it very difficult to concentrate and there can be days when I feel like I can barely remember anything or string a sentence together, let alone work I'm so tired.
Being 49 all my friends are also going through this too and some are suffering with terrible anxiety which has meant things they would have taken in their stride at work before have now become much more challenging.
As women are now having longer careers than ever before they will be spending more time dealing with these symptoms in the workplace.
Employers need to consider how this will affect their workforce, not just the women! Men also need to be educated, after all they may be dealing with women in their family going through this stage of life as well as at work.
If we are to fully embrace wellbeing in the workplace then managers need to know the facts about menopause and how to have conversations with women going through perimenopause, because it affects too many people to be ignored. There needs to be an understanding that for some women if they don't get the help they need they may feel there is no alternative but to leave the workplace.
100% of women will go through perimenopause, we owe it to them to create a a working environment in which they feel safe enough to confide in managers and get the support they need.
I hope that by talking more openly about my experiences it will help others to as well.