There are a number of lesser known holidays, many that are silly or were created for marketing purposes, but World Menopause Day, October 18, is one that most certainly deserves the spotlight considering half the population will be affected by the condition someday.
The International Menopause Society (IMS) collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) to create the holiday in 2009. Their aim was to raise awareness of the impact menopause has on women's lives and advocate for better care that improves health and well-being. This is a considerably daunting task since the subject was somewhat taboo in social circles, and a disturbing *93% of family practitioners and gynecologists admitted they were unprepared and uneducated when it came to treating this phase of a woman's life.
Although this national day has flown under the radar for some time now, 2023 seems to be the ‘Year of Menopause’ as celebrities, businesses and women have begun to talk about it more openly. While we’ve made significant strides in fueling discussion, as you’ll read, there is still a lot more work to do.
Menopause in the Workplace
It’s important to start with the 34 symptoms that can come with menopause. If we just look at only the ones that begin with “A”, we’ve already got the formidable combination of acne, allergies, anxiety and arrhythmia. If we get into the “B’s”, there’s brain fog and bloating. I’ll stop there but with 85% of women experiencing at least one symptom from this never-ending list, there is bound to be an impact on one’s job performance.
*Menopause costs the U.S. economy $26.6 billion annually due to lost productivity and medical expenses. According to a Mayo Clinic study, 11% of women between 45-60 missed work in 2021 due to menopausal symptoms. The same study found 13% of women reported having at least one adverse work outcome due to menopause symptoms in the past year, including missed days, reduced hours, being laid off or fired or choosing to quit. Even more concerning, a third of menopausal women are considering moving to part-time employment, and nearly a quarter are considering leaving the workforce entirely.
More than half of women say that menopause comes with a stigma and are uncomfortable talking about their symptoms at work, leading to a crippling communication barrier between employee and employer. Menopause-specific benefits can help overcome this and reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, and retain top female talent. A Bank of America survey found that 64% of women wanted these benefits, and it seems we are slowly moving in this direction. Fifteen percent of large organizations, up from just 4% last year, indicate they are either currently offering or plan to offer these benefits.
In 2018, only 15% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget was allocated to all of women’s health. Of this, less than 1% of that same budget was dedicated to reproductive aging. This is an appalling fact since women are half the population.
It’s also evident that healthcare practitioners aren’t preparing women for this stage in life. According to a recent survey commissioned by Wellcore of 1,000 women between ages 40-55, 23% of women felt unknowledgeable about menopause. In addition, 44% said their doctor did not proactively address menopause-related hormone imbalances and how to address symptoms. Yet, another example of how women continue to be ignored.
On the upside, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first non-hormonal drug to treat hot flashes. Companies are also beginning to fill in the gaps that traditional healthcare providers have neglected like Naomi Watts’ Swell and Wellcore’s At-Home Hormone Optimization program. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is finally being recognized as safe and the most effective solution to address menopausal symptoms, as well as an effective tool for reducing the risk of chronic disease. However, a New York Times article cautions women using online services that prescribe hormones without properly assessing patients. Blood work paired with a live consultation with a medical professional is essential to patient safety.
A Personal Perspective
Up until recently, my menopause journey was one of isolation, burdened by both its physical manifestation and the silly notion I was past my prime. At first, I became incensed as I learned about how historically women have been ignored and misled by the medical community when it comes to menopause care. But, eventually I began to realize something beautiful was happening. Movements are now happening where women are banding together to build safe spaces filled with encouragement and support. Powerful women are lending their voices to inspire change and destigmatize. Businesses are beginning to treat the condition with importance. And, new healthcare providers are stepping up to the plate and elevating menopause treatment standards. It seems a new day is dawning.
HAPPY WORLD MENOPAUSE DAY!
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