World Menopause Day 2018 & Hot Flush in the House of Commons!
Hot Flush in The House!
After a busy build up to our PositivePause campaign, and an early morning visit to BBC Radio4 Woman’s Hour, we found ourselves with time on our hands on World Menopause Day 2018. Knowing there was a debate scheduled at the House of Commons, we hotfooted it along to catch the debate live. What a buzz to be in the gallery, as discussion of menopause concerns echoed round the seat of UK decision making! And to our great surprise and delight, to hear the MP, Rachel Maclean, say in terms of credible support available to women? -
“There is the incredible Hot Flush, which describes the menopause as a club that no one wants to join. It does a lot to demystify some of the symptoms of menopause and to talk about them frankly.”
What a pleasant surprise to hear that the debate had been tabled, and was being introduced, by a male MP, Martin Whitfield, whose “warm, empathetic and well-informed” speech resonated with all who heard it. Rachel Maclean, wearing her #MakeMenopauseMatter badge, said that the debate was a courageous breakthrough that couldn’t have been imagined, even a couple of years ago.
A number of MPs, including Carolyn Harris and Marion Fellowes, shared their own experiences, as well as those of other women, to evidence the need for improvement in menopause awareness - in the workplace, in society, health and education. We’ve summarised some of the points made to give a flavour of the discussion. Head over to Hansard for more detail.
It was gratifying to hear Martin Whitfield say that society needs to grasp that menopause is normal, a natural phase that all women go through - there should be more empathy and sympathy for women during this stage.
As we teach our young people about the start of fertility, we should teach about the end. There were calls for this to be added to the school curriculum. Neil Adams responding for the government, included a moving memory of his own mum’s menopause. As a young boy, he witnessed her being taken ill with what he know realises were symptoms of menopause and being put in a “Victorian Asylum”. He wants children to be taught about the impact menopause can have on women. Hopefully, the education consultation that closes on 7th November, will take on board comments shared in the debate.
Health providers need to be educated so that they all understand what women are presenting with, when symptoms start to show.
There was consensus that access to advice in GP surgeries needs to be improved. GPs receive little if any training on menopause. Despite the recommendations made in the NICE 2015 guidelines, Rachel Maclean acknowledged that, “lack of awareness, a lack of information and a lack of empathy among GPs who are not prescribing HRT for women when they need it”.
(The ‘Make Menopause Matter’ campaign is pushing “to make comprehensive menopause training a compulsory part of GP education and to expand menopause services throughout the UK”. We’ve signed their petition and you can too.)
The Scottish Parliament has received a request for women to have equal access to menopause clinics. Nationally, there needs to be equal access to quality care in menopause. Martin Whitfield said that there is a huge amount of good work going on in this area, but that there is room for improvement.
“We need to have an understanding of the full spectrum of the menopause and not just assume that it affects only women of a certain age.” - 1 in 100 women will go through a surgical menopause. It was great to hear Michelle Heaton mentioned for being a diligent and vocal campaigner for early menopause.
All speakers agreed that there’s a need for education for women and their health care professionals, to help them all to understand the psychological impact of the loss of fertility on young women, some of whom are getting themselves in to debt in order to access the necessary support. Early menopause is an under-funded and misunderstood area.
Menopause in the workplace
“3.5 million women over 50 are employed in the UK, 80% of them will experience notable changes due to the menopause. Recent research has found that 50% of working women reported finding work difficult due to the menopause, and 10% give up work altogether as a result”.
“Employers have been far, far too slow to take on board the requirement to recognise those who are experiencing symptoms.” This number is set to increase bringing with it more, and better-informed, women who will need:
workplaces that are comfortable to work in, with windows, temperature controls and access to toilets
flexible working conditions
relaxation of uniform requirements or the provision of lighter-weight uniforms
a workplace menopause policy (such as the maternity policy), some unions are already championing this work
menopause to be considered an occupational health issue.
Rachel Maclean pointed out that it’s not all doom and gloom, “The process can be positive, with support and understanding, women can flourish and contribute”. Amen to that.
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