Working Through Menopause: How to Manage Your Symptoms at Your Job
For women who are going through menopause and still working, the ramifications can be significant. Women typically go through menopause between the ages of 45-55, just when they are most likely to be in leadership positions in the companies they work for. It is estimated that about 11% of the workforce are women going through menopause, with about a quarter of the world’s female population turning menopausal in 2030.
A survey in the U.K. in 2019 revealed that about 900,000 women quit their jobs due to menopausal symptoms, with estimates that global menopausal productivity losses reach $150 billion a year or more. Of course there are many other reasons women are leaving the workforce including caring for aging parents and homeschooling their children during the pandemic. Once a woman quits her employment, it can be extremely difficult to re-enter.
If you are a woman going through menopausal symptoms at work, there are solutions to your problem. More and more employers recognize menopause as a legitimate medical condition that requires attention and support. But, even if your employer is behind the times, we have some ideas to get you through menopause at work and at home.
Menopausal Symptoms and Work
Menopausal symptoms begin for most women between the ages of about 45-55 and can last up to 14 years. Coping with the symptoms of menopause, especially at a time when you might be rising through the ranks into higher and more demanding leadership roles, can be grueling. Not only are you expected to be the best at what you do, but you have to do it under enormously challenging conditions. It is like showing up to work sick each day with increasingly high-performance demands. Let’s look at some of the symptoms you may be experiencing.
Hot flashes can occur completely out of the blue at any time of day. Research suggests that hot flashes occur due to decreasing estrogen levels that cause your body's thermostat (hypothalamus) to become more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature. When the hypothalamus thinks your body is too warm, it starts a chain of events — a hot flash — to cool you down. The skin becomes flushed and red, and you may experience extreme sweating. Feelings of anxiety are also common, and stress itself can be a trigger. If you are in a meeting and this happens, you know the embarrassment it can cause.
As you near menopause, your hormone levels fluctuate dramatically, which causes the brain to wake up at all hours of the night. Also, lower progesterone levels (hormones released by the ovaries during monthly menstruation) might make it more difficult to sleep. Also, night sweats disrupt sleep. The result? You are tired during the day.
Poor Concentration and Memory Problems
Difficulty concentrating and brain fog are common complaints of women going through perimenopause and menopause. You know the feeling- difficulty organizing, keeping track of things, depression, focusing, motivation- all of the things you need to do your job and live your life!
There is a famous quote by Ann Richards, the 45th governor of Texas, who said, “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backward and in high heels.” That quote pretty much sums up what it is like to be a woman going through menopause at work.
Solutions to Coping with Menopause at Work
Recognizing Menopausal Symptoms
You are not going crazy- you are experiencing a natural biological process that is wreaking havoc on your life! Rationalizing the symptoms of menopause or simply accepting them and hoping for the best is not a good solution. You can do something about the way you feel.
Hormone replacement is the logical first step to coping with symptoms of menopause. Bio-identical hormone replacement that is tailored to your individual needs will likely give you significant relief. Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone replacement can help alleviate hot flashes, memory problems, give you more energy, help you sleep, and increase your libido.
This one is a bit tricky since many women hide their symptoms rather than tell their boss, who may not understand. Some companies are beginning to recognize that productivity and well-being are affected by menopausal symptoms. For example, Emma Walmsley, 52, chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, half of whose female employees are over 45, established a menopause support group at its global headquarters in the U.K. in 2019.
But, most employers have a long way to go in supporting their female employees, and talking with your boss about your symptoms is a personal decision.
Hormone replacement alone is not enough to reach your full potential. Work is stressful, and it takes patience to restore your health to normal. It is common for women to develop some poor health habits during menopause, so make sure you put some effort into exercise, stress management, and a healthy diet. Combining healthy habits with hormone replacement will make a significant difference in the way you feel.
Keep Working Towards a Healthier You
If you are suffering at work due to menopausal symptoms, reassess any desire to quit due to that reason. And don’t think that you don’t have any other choice, because you do. You are undoubtedly under tremendous pressure at home and at work that is exacerbated by hormonal fluctuations. Consider bio-identical hormone replacement and see the positive changes it will make in your sleep, mood, and ability to perform your job at the highest level.