Despite the fact that menopause affects over over one million people in the U.S. each year, menopause is still often stigmatized and overlooked in the workplace. With a lack of support from healthcare providers (who are often not comfortable treating menopause symptoms), as well as limited menopause benefits in the workplace, it's unsurprising that many employees feel alone in tackling this natural yet challenging phase of life.

But the severity of menopause symptoms doesn't just impact an employee’s day-to-day. Around 20% of women have left or considered leaving their job due to menopause symptoms, resulting in dramatic losses for top talent, productivity, and a business's overall bottom line.

HR leaders can play an important role in reducing the stigma around menopause and better supporting employees through this phase of life. While menopause benefits at work are eseential for employees experiencing menopause, HR leaders can further show up for employees by educating themselves on treatment options available for menopause.  Explore our comprehensive guide to menopause treatments below.

Understanding menopause: basics for HR leaders 

Menopause occurs when a person hasn't had their period for 12 or more consecutive months. This typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but some people may experience these symptoms earlier or later in life.

Menopause symptoms

Women experience many different symptoms of menopause that can impact both mental and physical health. This can occur during menopause but also in the stage before and after, known as perimenopause and post menopause.

Different people experience a variety of symptoms of menopause, each of which can vary in frequency, severity and discomfort. The most common menopause symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Irregular periods and changes to the menstrual cycle
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Brain fog
  • Dry skin patches
  • Weight changes
  • Hair loss
  • Mild vaginal dryness or vaginal discomfort which can cause painful sex
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Urinary symptoms including incontinence and infections

Other symptoms of menopause are also reported. Although less frequent, they can still cause distress, impacting daily life and causing significant health problems. These symptoms can include joint pain, severe vaginal dryness, vaginal bleeding, and an increased risk of heart disease.

The impact of menopausal symptoms on work performance

Living with menopause symptoms can have a dramatic impact on a person's day-to-day life, including their overall wellbeing and how they perform in the workplace. One study found that as many as one third of women find coping at work moderately or severely difficult due to symptoms, leading to depression, poor health, and financial difficulties.

It's also recognized that menopause can impact cognitive function, leading to poorer memory and concentration, as well as increased tiredness. And other symptoms, such as hot flashes, can make women feel embarrassed or ashamed. This is often heightened due to lack of understanding and support in the workplace, with menopause stigma still prevalent in many organizations.

Dealing with these symptoms of menopause can seem overwhelming for many employees, leading some to leave their jobs, whilst others are cutting back on hours or taking extended leave. Studies estimate that global productivity losses from menopause top $150B per year, with 11% of employees saying they’ve missed work in the last 12 months because of menopause symptoms.

Comprehensive menopause treatments: what HR should know

Menopause doesn't require medical treatment, but there are many ways to lessen the severity of menopause symptoms for employees. By understanding the treatments that are available, HR leaders can better support employees who may be struggling in the workplace.

Lifestyle and holistic approaches

A healthy lifestyle can help to counter the negative impact that menopause symptoms have on a person's mental and physical health. This includes:

  • Eating a balanced diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, and nutrients to help maintain a healthy weight. A person should avoid caffeine and spicy foods which are considered a trigger for hot flashes.
  • Talking to a doctor about dietary supplements such as vitamin D and calcium to support healthy bone density and mental health.
  • Regular exercise (at least 150 minutes per week) to help manage stress and improve overall health.
  • Stress management and self-care in the form of meditation, acupuncture, mindfulness, or yoga.
  • Sticking to a good sleep schedule by getting plenty of rest and practicing good sleep habits.
  • Getting mental health support to help cope with other menopausal symptoms such as trouble sleeping, mood changes, and relationship strains. This can be in the form of mindfulness techniques or talking therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Drinking plenty of water to help stay hydrated and reduce hot flashes.
  • Wearing lightweight clothing, using fans or air conditioning, and keeping the home at a comfortable temperature to help reduce hot flashes and night sweats.

Menopausal hormone therapy (hormone replacement therapy)

Menopausal hormone therapy, otherwise known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is the most common treatment to relieve menopausal symptoms.

There are different types of hormone therapy that can be prescribed based on a person's lifestyle, preferences, stage of menopause and whether or not they've had a hysterectomy. Hormone therapy typically comes in the form of tablets, a skin patch, gel, cream, or a vaginal ring.

Benefits of menopausal hormone therapy

Menopausal hormone therapy replaces the hormones estrogen and progestin, which the body makes a reduced amount of throughout menopause. These hormones are important for keeping bones healthy, therefore hormone therapy is often used to treat osteoporosis.

However, hormone therapy may help relieve vaginal dryness and mood swings among other menopause symptoms. Many consider it to be an effective way to reduce hot flashes and night sweats.

Risks of menopausal hormone therapy

Some employees opt to take hormone therapy, however it may not be suitable for everyone. Particularly those with a history of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, blood clots, or untreated high blood pressure. Much like birth control pills, there is a small increased risk of blood clots (however this is rare for those between 50 to 59 years of age), and breast cancer with five or more years of continuous use (this risk decreases once menopausal hormone therapy is stopped).

These risks depend on the individual's age, health history, and the type of menopausal hormone therapy they are taking. A healthcare provider can help employees understand if hormone therapy is right for them.

Non-hormonal medical treatment

Many people find that alternative treatments such as herbal supplements can help to relieve hot flashes and other symptoms. These include black cohosh, evening primrose oil, and red clover. It's important to discuss this option with a healthcare provider before use and to remember that the effectiveness can vary.

Other medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and prescription drugs for conditions such as high blood pressure can also help to treat hot flashes and other symptoms. Over the counter products are specifically created to treat vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, including vaginal moisturizers and lubricants.

Experience Maven through the eyes of a member

Explore our interactive experience and journey alongside Dawn as she balances menopause symptoms with her career.

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Experience Maven through the eyes of a member

Implementing menopause support in the workplace 

With many employees already experiencing menopause in your workplace, now is the time to implement support which can help them and future employees.

Creating a menopause-friendly work environment

Employees should feel comfortable asking for the support that they need, whether it be an adjustment to their role or flexible hours.

Many women suffer from difficulty sleeping, hot flashes, and brain fog, which can dramatically impact their confidence and ability to perform certain tasks. Simply allowing for more working from home and flexibility for medical appointments can make a huge difference.

Organizations may also wish to allow for flexibility in roles and responsibilities to help employees better manage symptoms during the working day.

Make changes to workplace policies to cover menopause at work, and communicate them with the wider company. You may also wish to consider creating comfortable, private spaces for onsite workers to retreat to when experiencing hot flashes or uncomfortable symptoms.

Menopause benefits

Consider offering specialized employee benefits that support menopausal employees. Maven's menopause benefits help get employees the care they need to navigate menopause and reduce the impact that symptoms have on them at home and at work. Our 24/7, on-demand platform fills gaps in care by helping member identify symptoms early and provides unlimited access to specialists, clinically-vetted content, and mental health support.

Training and awareness programs

Most managers and leadership teams don't fully understand the menopause process and what it entails. Even if they're going through it themselves, symptoms can go unnoticed or it can be difficult to self-diagnose menopause as the cause. But beginning to talk about menopause openly will help to close this knowledge gap and ensure no symptoms go untreated.

Educate managers and teams about menopause, sharing how it can affect a person's daily life, and how symptoms can make work difficult. Company-wide education can help to reduce stigma and promote an inclusive culture where menopausal employees feel supported.

Maven's Menopause & Ongoing Care members have unlimited access to a variety of content and classes from how to relieve hot flashes and vaginal dryness, to understanding hormone replacement therapy. Each aims to inform and educate both those going through the menopause and those in a supporting role.

Legal and ethical considerations

Whilst menopause is not considered to be a disability in the US, persisting symptoms that have a long-term impact on normal day-to-day life can fall under Section 6 of the Equality Act, including bleeding and anxiety.

Organizations should be very mindful not to discriminate against an employee because of their experience with the menopause (and therefore age), and should make all possible adjustments to help them in their role. They must also ensure privacy and keep all personal discussions confidential.

Explore Maven's menopause solution

With more and more organizations recognizing the importance of supporting their employee's general health and wellbeing, leading organizations are incorporating menopause care into their core benefits package.

Maven is the world's largest women's and family health clinic, helping employers to provide better, more inclusive care to their employees.

Through Maven, employees can find help during their entire perimenopausal, menopausal, and postmenopausal journey that's tailored to their individual needs. Virtual specialists and clinically-approved content and classes can be accessed 24/7. 

Find out more about how our solution can help your organization to support employees experiencing menopause, or request a demo today to get started.

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