by Mary Green
Age 42, a year after having my youngest child I started to feel ill. I was sweaty to the point where my make up would slide off and my face would get sore; I suddenly had anxiety for the first time, and I could no longer sleep. I assumed I had a seriously horrible disease and panicking went to the doctor, they couldn’t find anything. I went again, the same result, I started to think I was going a bit mad.
Eventually after getting to a point where I was severely struggling to work due to exhaustion, body aches, and the symptoms I mentioned above along with an intense brain fog; I finally managed to get some sense out of a female doctor. Apparently, I had all the classic symptoms of perimenopause. ‘WHAT?’ I bellowed. ‘I am FAR, FAR too young for the menopause’. I have a one-year-old child for goodness’ sake. It turns out I was wrong, in my case HRT was the only solution to really get me back to feeling like myself.
One thing that struck me, when I found out what was going on, was that if I hadn’t had a fairly flexible work role, that the delays in treatment could well have cost me my job as well as the temporary loss of my sense of self. A survey by the not-for-profit organisation Newson Health Research and Education found that one third of women had to wait at least three years before their perimenopausal symptoms were correctly diagnosed. A shocking 59% of women with menopausal symptoms visited their GP more than twice and 18% visited more than six times before they received adequate help or advice.
The menopause (support and services) Bill is currently on its second reading in Parliament, which aims to improve services and make hormone replacement therapy free on the NHS. “Women have suffered long enough: I’m determined to change that” – Carolyn Harris MP. (Oct 2021)
In the meantime, here are my top 5 tips for staving off financial problems during perimenopause and menopause.
- Awareness – check a symptom list – there is excellent information and support available from www.menopausesupport.co.uk and a Facebook group the Menopause Support Network.
- Action – if you intend to go via the medical route go to the doctor armed with information. Of 600 women polled by the Menopause Support Network, 48% felt they had no option but to pay for private care which can be costly. The NHS can prescribe so be prepared before your appointment as you may have to argue your case as the majority of GP’s are not trained in Menopause. It is worth asking if any of the GP’s at your practice has any special expertise in this area.
- Support – Give yourself some time and space to adjust, get the balance app (balance-app.com) and talk to your friends and family, 50% of people will go through perimenopause and menopause. It arrives when you are only halfway through your life so there is a lot left to enjoy and achieve. The hashtag #makemenopausematter is worth following as well. You are not alone.
- Savings – make sure you have an emergency fund earmark some of your savings for looking after yourself, whatever that means to you.
- Work – It is well worth discussing flexible working arrangements with your employer. Remember women in their 40’s and 50’s are highly valuable and experienced employees and as such you should have the clout to ask for useful adjustments while you adapt to your changing hormones.
Credits and useful links:
The Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s 2016 guidance on menopause in the workplace is aimed at women going through menopause and their employers. It offers employers practical guidance on how to improve workplace environments for menopausal women (tinyurl.com/menopause-in-workplace) www.menopausesupport.co.uk