Removing the Menopause Taboo
01, Dec 2022
Why in News?
- Recent announcement by the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK that menopausal women on their staff will be able to work out of the home should their symptoms require it, is about path-finding and working the middle ground in the workplace.
- NHS chief Amanda Pritchard said that other employers should follow suit to help middle-aged women “thrive” at work and those “silently suffering” should not be expected to “grin and bear it.”
Background: A menopausal taboo questions women’s potential?
- The context opening up the conversation at least: If nothing, such a move has at least been a conversation starter about what has been so far a taboo in the workplace and a reason to hive off women than allow them ease of thriving.
- Misconception that women may not work efficiently: Yet, just like pregnancy, the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle is seen as her losing energy, drive, desire, stamina, excitement and capability, in short, a cliff-jumping drop of her value in wisdom and experience.
- On the contrary most women do best in this phase: Ironically, this phase, between the mid-40s to the mid-50s, is where you would find most women reaching the top, having battled biases of motherhood, leaving no questions unanswered on their competence and commitment.
- Yet questions raised about her worth and never about her comfort: When a woman employee crosses the age bar, she has to prove her worth all over again. Is she as good, is she capable of thinking afresh, can she pull long hours? It is never about “is she comfortable?” Sadly, her body of work matters little.
- Constant pressure on women to prove the worth forces to overlook themselves: And it is this constant pressure to feed expectations that forces even confident women to overwork themselves to stay relevant despite those painful bouts of endometriosis, heavy bleeding, hot flushes, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension and palpitations. All of these are terribly debilitating but manageable with a little breathing space.
What is menopause?
- Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period.
- Menopausal transition may commonly be referred to as “menopause,” true menopause doesn’t happen until one year after a woman’s final menstrual period.
- The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause.
- The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55.
- It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The duration can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, age it begins, and race and ethnicity.
- During perimenopause, the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones made by the ovaries, varies greatly.
- Estrogen is used by many parts of a woman’s body. As levels of estrogen decrease, one could have various symptoms. Many women experience mild symptoms that can be treated by lifestyle changes. Some women don’t require any treatment at all.
Did you know?
- According to the Harvard Medical School, a post-menopausal woman’s symptoms of a heart attack are “different from a man’s and she’s much more likely than a man to die within a year of having a heart attack.
- Women also don’t seem to fare as well as men do after taking clot-busting drugs or undergoing certain heart-related medical procedures.”
What are the signs and symptoms of menopause?
- Change in your period: Women periods may no longer be regular. They may be shorter or last longer. Bleeding may be more or less than usual.
- Hot flashes: Many women have hot flashes, which can last for many years after menopause. They may be related to changing estrogen levels. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of the body.
- Disturbed Sleep: Around midlife, some women start having trouble getting a good night’s sleep.
- Vaginal health and sexuality: After menopause, the vagina may become drier, which can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable. Women may find that the feelings about sex are changing.
- Mood changes: Women might feel moodier or more irritable around the time of menopause. Scientists don’t know why this happens. It’s possible that stress, family changes such as growing children or aging parents, a history of depression, or feeling tired could be causing these mood changes.
- Body features may alter: The body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily. Women might have memory problems as well as joints and muscles could feel stiff and achy.
How menopause affects Women health?
- Severe and unexpected physiological challenges: As the hormone oestrogen dips, it pushes up bad cholesterol or LDL levels, raising their cardiac risk more than men. They even have higher concentrations of total cholesterol than men.
- Psychological challenges: Strangely even women in the menopausal period are not concerned about their life risks as they get caught in the vanity trap and worry more about issues related to their body image, sexuality and self-esteem. Some rush into Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT), which is not quite the elixir of youth, and often has deadly side effects like uterine and breast cancer. These elevated risk factors, however, can be reduced if women were to be less stressed about tiring out their bodies to prove a point.
The conversation over the menopause:
- In India: However, in India, where motherhood is seen as a major career impediment for women, menopause is a far cry, often bottled up in hushed conversations among women in the office loo.
- Progressive step in UK: The UK Parliament commissioned a survey that showed how one in three women were missing work due to menopause.
- Italy and Australia: Italy and Australia are debating about including menopause in work ethics norms.
- EU parliament: Recently, the EU Parliament put out a statement, saying, “The failure to address menopause as a workplace issue is increasingly leading to insufficient protection of female workers and the early exit of women from labour markets, and thereby increasing the risk of women’s economic dependence, poverty and social exclusion, contributing to the loss of women’s knowledge, skills and experience, and leading to significant economic losses.”
- Considering that women will go through this biological phase at least for eight years in their work life, a little sensitivity to their concerns would matter more than a debate on whether they should be allowed extra benefits.