October 18th, 2023
Understanding Menopause with Clare Louise Knox
Welcome to another episode of Vet Chat. Today, as part of our World Menopause Day celebrations, we are delighted to be joined by Clare Louise Knox, a business psychologist specializing in women's health at work. Clare's extensive experience and dedication in this field make her a valuable guest. In this episode, we dive deep into understanding menopause and its impact.
Meet Our Guest
Before we delve into our conversation, let's introduce our guest, Clare Louise Knox. Claire's journey is one of inspiration. Her personal experience with Premenstrual Dysphonic Disorder led her to establish Seek Her Thrive, a company dedicated to women's health. Claire has been actively involved in various associations and organizations, including the International Association of Premenstrual Disorders, the British Menopause Society, the British Psychological Society, and the CIPD. She also serves as a lay examiner for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and lectures on women's mental health at King's College London. Additionally, Claire is a Ph.D. researcher collaborating with the NHS and the Ministry of Defense.
Understanding Menopause: A 101
Menopause signifies the end of the reproductive years for women, marking 365 days since their last menstrual period. On reaching this milestone, postmenopause begins. It's important to note that perimenopause, the period when hormone levels decline and fluctuate, can commence decades before menopause. Typical age for reaching menopause in the UK is around 51, but perimenopause symptoms may start as early as the mid-thirties. It's crucial to dispel the myth that menopause only occurs during midlife, as various journeys to menopause exist, including early menopause and surgical menopause due to surgeries like oophorectomies.
Challenges and Symptoms
Menopause comes with a wide array of symptoms, spanning from physical issues such as hot flashes, night sweats, and joint pain to psychological challenges like depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Cognitive symptoms, including brain fog, difficulties in concentration and decision-making, are also common. It's essential to recognize that people's experiences of menopause differ widely, with around 25% experiencing severe symptoms and another 25% having no or mild symptoms. Some may suffer from physical symptoms, while others grapple with the mental health impacts of hormonal fluctuations.
Navigating a Career During Menopause
For individuals navigating their careers during menopause, open and honest conversations are vital. If you're facing challenges due to menopause, talking to someone you trust, be it your manager or someone in HR, is a crucial first step. It's not necessary to disclose that it's due to menopause; describing it as health challenges is perfectly acceptable. When discussing this, communicate the specific work-related challenges you're facing and inquire about available support. Recognize that you're not alone, and you can receive help and understanding. Employers should be willing to accommodate and support employees facing menopause-related difficulties.
Supporting Menopausal Colleagues
Employers and teams play a pivotal role in supporting menopausal colleagues. Initiating conversations and providing training on menopause awareness is a great start. Employers should take steps to ensure that policies and practices are designed with the well-being of employees experiencing menopause in mind. This includes creating a menopause and menstrual health policy, offering manager training, and organizing support groups for women. A flexible and compassionate approach, allowing for occasional leniency, can make a significant difference in ensuring a supportive workplace.
Success Stories and Future Aspirations
Organizations that have embraced a holistic approach to menopause awareness have witnessed significant positive changes. Success stories abound in the form of employees feeling more empowered to discuss their challenges and employers accommodating their needs effectively. Looking to the future, Clare envisions a world where mandatory training on menopause is the norm. Workplace sickness absence policies may also need reevaluation to better support individuals facing health challenges. In two years, the hope is that discussing menopause will be a natural part of workplace conversation, along with the inclusion of other female-related health topics, such as endometriosis, PMDD, and polycystic ovary syndrome, to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.
Taking the First Step
If you're inspired and wish to learn more or seek support, you can visit the See Her Thrive website. Additionally, the Balance app by Dr. Louise Newson is an excellent resource for managing menopause symptoms and treatment.
Together, we can create inclusive and supportive workplaces for everyone. As Claire mentioned, the most crucial conversations are often the uncomfortable ones, but they are essential for positive change. Are you ready to take that step and be part of this change?
What steps can you take to support menopausal colleagues in your workplace? Share your thoughts and ideas with us!