Menopause Month: Dr Zoe Williams answers another question from a reader on menopause in week three of our series during October’s Menopause Awareness Month.
Melan Magazine has partnered with Issviva, who support women going through menopause and their medical ambassador, Dr Zoe Williams, as part of a new weekly series during October’s Menopause Awareness Month to answer readers’ burning menopause-themed questions.
Read on for week three’s Q&A.
I was diagnosed with menopause around four years ago and I’ve been taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) which has been working really well for me so far. However, recently the dreaded brain fog has kicked back in and I’m finding the simplest of everyday words really difficult. I’ve got terrible anxiety, especially at work, and I’m finding it really embarrassing and stressful. What can I do about brain fog and should I talk to my male boss about it?
Dr Zoe: There are two questions that we need to break down here. You’ve been taking HRT for four years and it’s been working well for you so far. However, what happens is when you’re going through perimenopause your oestrogen levels are gradually depleting and so it may be that that they have dropped further since your initial prescription. You might actually require a different dose of HRT as you proceed through the menopause. I recommend you talk to your doctor about getting a higher dose of HRT to manage the symptoms. I suggest keeping a symptom log and writing down how things have changed from where they were before.
“I recommend you talk to your doctor about getting a higher dose of HRT to manage the symptoms.”
The workplace topic is a really interesting one because I think this is something that is changing. There’s recently been a change in menopause legislation in Parliament, which is really important for women’s health. This is the first time the topic of menopause has been taken seriously by government. In my experience, unfortunately, the health care system was set up by white men, for white men and women don’t really get look-in. So, therefore, things that only affect women have been very much neglected for so long, and menopause is a huge part of that.
We know that women in the workplace can really suffer. And if you’re having terrible menopause symptoms and there’s a change happening, your boss has a responsibility to listen to your concerns and help improve your experience at work. If your boss is male, my advice is to book a meeting with them.
“… your boss has a responsibility to listen to your concerns and help improve your experience at work.”
The best way to prepare for such a meeting is to let them know in advance what you want to talk about, record as much information as you’re willing to share regarding the symptoms and how they’re affecting you in relation to your work. It’s good to prepare by going in with some practical solutions as well. So, say, for example, if it’s anxiety that’s bothering you on your commute to work, maybe the suggestions would be working from home or actually doing a slightly different shift, maybe coming in a bit later in the morning, so you miss rush hour.
Come up with some suggestions on how you think that things can be changed to help you, and if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to that person directly, then there may be somebody else who you can talk to.
“… if you don’t feel like you’re making progress with your boss, then speak to a GP.”
If you work for a large organisation, then maybe you can speak to the dedicated person within the HR team for these issues or within the management team.
Finally, if you don’t feel like you’re making progress with your boss, then speak to a GP because we can help you with that as well. We can give you a what’s called a Med Three – people call them sick notes still, but they’re called Med Three. With a Med Three, you can say that somebody is not fit for work, but you can also say that somebody requires, for medical reasons, adaptions to the workplace, whether that is the job, the various different tasks that they’re doing, the hours that they’re working, etc.
There was a big survey carried out recently that showed that three in five women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms say it affects their job. In addition, the number of women that end up giving up their jobs because of the menopause and the impact it has on them, their financial circumstances, the whole economy is massive. It’s really important that women start to feel empowered to make these adjustments.
Look out for next week’s Q&A from Dr Zoe Williams.