Fiona from Solent NHS Trust shares her experience of the menopause with us.
I have worked for Solent NHS Trust for six years. I’m 48 years old and have been married for 23 years, with two brilliant grown-up boys.
In some ways I was fortunate because I went in to the menopause overnight, following a full hysterectomy. At the time it felt very dramatic to have full surgery but now I’m actually grateful, as I have no ongoing concerns. I really feel for friends of mine who are getting slowly experiencing symptoms but are being told ‘it’s just stress’ or ‘you need to watch your diet’.
Post-surgery, I returned to a really supportive workplace but I did struggle with extreme fatigue and hot flushes, which became difficult to manage when others wanted to switch the air conditioning off! Even though I knew logically that the surgery had actually helped my health, there was a part of me that felt I must have somehow aged overnight. I noticed my skin felt dry, I rapidly gained weight. I can honestly say I’ve had days where I’ve felt more exhausted than when I gave birth. Luckily, I’ve only experienced a few of the acknowledged 72 symptoms of Menopause!
A genuinely life affirming moment was on a hot summer day, travelling on a train with colleagues and our Chief Executive. One of us confessed to feeling overwhelmingly hot and experiencing a hot flush. That was it! The dam broke and five women became extremely animated, all sharing our Menopause stories.
This event took our Trust in a great direction, setting up a Menopause team, who established a series of ‘MenoPause’ roadshows with the support of our brilliants specialist Dr. Caroline Taylor. So many people engaged with the talks and the materials, it was obvious that there was a silent majority who needs this support, both within the NHS and wider society. Not surprising when you consider that 83% of our workforce identify as female and are over the age of 30.
We continue to develop our Menopause offer to all colleagues (many people don’t talk about the male Menopause, which can be just as debilitating). Barriers can exist when a Manager may not understand quite how severe symptoms can be but you should always make them aware and speak up if you don’t think you’re getting the support you need. Your Occupational Health and Wellbeing team will be able to support both your emotional and physical wellbeing, so do reach out to them.
If you work in a team where you might be the only person experiencing the Menopause it can feel lonely but you don’t have to go it alone – ask your workplace to start their own MenoPause group and get together to share and even have a giggle with others who understand what you are going through. My team are extremely compassionate but it was important for me to be able to share how different I was feeling with others who were on the same journey.
Now that NHS England are putting a Menopause Strategy in place, we should start to see changes in our work environments and to working practice, to make allowances for what is a natural life changing event.
Our Menopause Support service is now available to help support NHS and Primary Care colleagues in Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Click here to learn more,