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A message for World Menopause Awareness Day

Hazel Melnick

Hazel Melnick This year I have no doubt the hubbub of noise, from the chatter of conversation to the flourishing of fans, will be louder than ever.

The courage of women such as TV hosts Louise Minchin and Davina McCall, journalists including Lorraine Candy and Kate Muir, who in her recent Guardian article stated: “HRT used to be a dirty word. Now it’s a battle cry” and experts such as Dr Louise Newson, have opened up a discussion that has been taboo for far too long.  

And thank you Carolyn Harris MP – your bill that’s currently going through Parliament for free hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (it’s already free in Scotland and Wales) as well as covering broader issues around rights and education, will ensure this stays firmly on our radar. Now all we need is for more GPs to be educated, and the astonishingly limited number of menopause clinics across the country to expand exponentially, so we can easily get the advice, support and information we need.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief that at long last we’re publicly starting to acknowledge menopause and its impact. The lack of open discussions has made many women feel incredibly alone in their struggles, especially as there has been very little support or understanding on offer. The dictionary definition of menopause simply states: the ceasing of menstruation – which in itself shows the very simplified view many have of what is a hugely complex condition.

And it doesn’t only impact women of a certain vintage; women can, for example, be thrown into forced menopause through emergency hysterectomies – in fact 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before they’re 40 (some in their teens or twenties.)

Honestly, I feel like a trailblazer! Actually we all are. Women in years to come are going to be far better placed than my peers and I have been.

This year’s topic is bone health – and concerns around this particular subject are just one of the many worries facing women which span a plethora of subjects. Anyone who read my blog on my personal experiences will know aside from osteoporosis and dementia, my not so favourite anxiety is my vagina falling out (or prolapsing, to use the technical term). I’m lucky I can be open with my friends and family; and the only request came from my brother who asked me not to leave ‘it’ on his car seat!

Most importantly for me today, is my nearly 51-year-old peri-menopausal self is delighted that since writing my blog, we’re already in a different place as an organisation.

In celebration of this global event, we’ve launched a new category for absence reporting, acknowledging that there are times women in our Trust need time off, in the same way colleagues need time off for any other condition that impacts their physical, mental and/or emotional wellbeing, so from now on menopause can be selected as an absence reason.

We have also created a new menopause resource on our staff wellbeing site, housing a range of useful information from apps, books (take a look in our library too) and a host of webinars and booklets. The Henpicked Menopause Hub covers topics from sex, sleep and diet through to cognitive behavioural therapy and how to get support from your GP.

And today, we’ve been hosting our own events to support women and their colleagues across our hospitals which I hope you’ve been able to join.

Next up will be a menopause steering group, menopause cafes, a series of podcasts – and importantly a focus on listening to women and their colleagues to understand how we can continue to put the right support in place across our hospitals.

Ultimately this is about staff wellbeing – and it’s no different to supporting any other area of wellbeing. More than 77 per cent of our workforce is women – that’s thousands potentially affected at any one time, so why wouldn’t we want to help them? It’s a no brainer and will only benefit each other and our patients.

I for one, am having a happy Monday…

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