Wellbeing

Miss Menopause answers the questions we’re all too scared to ask

We caught up with Sharon MacArthur, a.k.a Miss Menopause, to finally get some answers.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 16.10.2021

We teamed up with Yvonne at Growing Old Disgracefully to anonymously collect the burning questions women are wanting to ask about menopause.

Menopause is still considered by many to be a taboo subject, with many of us not talking about what we’re going through. But all of us ladies go through it, so why should we suffer in silence?

After going through the menopause herself and hearing some horror stories from other women – including some whose perimenopausal symptoms were wrongly diagnosed as early dementia – Sharon MacArthur set up Miss Menopause to help put the record straight.

In 2017, only 5% of companies across the UK were educating their workforce about the symptoms of menopause. That’s where Sharon comes in. She’s now on a mission to educate organisations on how to manage their female colleagues who are going through “the change”

So whether you’re worried about how long your symptoms will last, or if you feel like you’re at a disadvantage compared to your younger, male colleagues, we ask Miss Menopause all your questions so you can finally get some answers.

I’m 54 and I’m still having periods, even worse than when I was young, but none of my friends are. I’m showing no signs of menopause. Is this normal?

You’re only going to have a menopause like yourself. Although the average age in the UK is estimated to be 51, many women will start a lot sooner and some will go through it later – that’s just the average estimate. There’s no set “setting” for menopause – nobody can tell another human what’s right or wrong. You need to understand what’s suitable for you and your body and what you’re prepared to tolerate.

When does the perimenopause become the menopause?

How long is a piece of string? We just don’t know. Perimenopause can last for weeks, months or years, but the last person to know will be you. I think people are looking for a routine and a set number of answers, but that’s what makes managing the menopause really difficult. Perimenopause is ultimately when you notice a change in your period; some women will bleed less, their periods might become infrequent and some will bleed more.

In my opinion, menopause effectively only lasts for one day. It’s when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive calendar months. The day after that you are classed as postmenopausal. I was super excited to be postmenopausal, but all it means that you no longer have periods, but all your symptoms can continue for years.

I’m working with menopause symptoms which puts me at a disadvantage to my younger or male colleagues. My workplace hasn’t kept up with the ageing workforce. Do you know of any specific HR policies I should consider?

 Menopause doesn’t have its own protected characteristics, but it comes under the Equality Act 2010, under the age, disability, and sex umbrella headings. But there are lots of policies about menopause.

Whoever you work for, it’s very short term of them not to consider an ageing workforce because we know that women in their 50s are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace. This company is at risk of losing talented people if they don’t educate their workforce about the menopause.

As part of Miss Menopause, I work to educate businesses about the menopause. Menopause impacts 100% of women and we’re sadly seeing fewer women in senior positions past the age of 40, because people are unaware of how to manage their symptoms, leading them to quit their jobs.

My GP hasn’t been very helpful. Where should I go for expert help with my menopausal symptoms?

Many GPs in the 21st century don’t seem to have the right level of expertise that you would expect on this subject matter. My first tip would be to ask who in the practice has a specialism in menopause when you make an appointment with your GP. And if nobody does, you might even consider changing your practice. Or ask your GP for a referral to menopause clinics – there’s one in Newcastle which is on the NHS.

I would also say to women to do their own research before going to their GP, because many GPs will tell women that they’re too young for menopause or won’t even mention menopause. You can listen to podcasts, read books and join women’s groups.  I have a Facebook group with 5,000 women, where we discuss ways to help manage symptoms – but remember, everyone is different and different things work for every individual.

I’m 68 and my period stopped years ago, but I still have hot sweats, sleepless nights and mood swings. When will it end?

It might never end. You have to ask yourself: ‘is the menopause impacting the quality of my life?’ If so, then doing nothing shouldn’t be an option.

I’ve met women in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s who are still saying to me that when they reached postmenopause, they thought it would be over. But just because your period has stopped doesn’t mean your symptoms will end.

I’m 75 and I know I must have gone through menopause, but it was so mild that I really didn’t notice except my periods stop at the age of 55. Is this normal?

Very normal.  You’re in the exclusive 20% club of women who will have little or no symptoms. You’re a very lucky lady!

Does CBD oil have any positive effects on perimenopausal symptoms?

It’s all about trial and error. There’s no research that I’ve read that confirms it works 100%, but without trying it for yourself, how are you going to find out? What might work for me might never work for you. Are you prepared to put your life on hold due to menopause? Researching online and reading the facts is vital to find out what works for you.

What’s your opinion on HRT?

HRT does have a risk, but the risk is small. It all depends on your personal circumstances and medical history as to whether it’s right for you.  But there are some benefits of HRT; it can help to prevent Alzheimer’s and heart disease for example, which is the biggest killer of women once they’ve gone through the menopause. The best thing I can say to women is to go and do their research. There are pros and cons, but for me personally, two weeks after getting HRT, all my symptoms disappeared.

What alternative treatments are there for women who can’t take HRT?

For those who can’t or don’t want to take HRT you have several options. The first is what I would call the herbal route. You have lots of options from things like Black Cohosh to Red Clover the list is long but just because it sounds natural doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. Some research showed that Black Cohosh could impact liver function negatively. Also for anyone taking conventional medicines you must check that any additional things you take don’t impact their usefulness. There are also many vitamins and mineral but again please make sure to do your research beforehand.

Then there’s the holistic route, where you can use things like magnets in your pants to help prevent symptoms – I did try that but I ended up getting stuck to a shopping trolley! Things like mindfulness, yoga and meditation can also be really helpful.

Try recording your symptoms and keeping a food diary to track what food and drink triggers your symptoms. Common triggers are alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.

Finally why not join a group or just talk to friends, family and colleagues? We need to make sure that no one out there ever feels isolated or alone, ever.

If you would like to some support, join Miss Menopause’s Facebook group.

Or if you’re an organisation who would benefit from some training on the menopause, visit Miss Menopause’s website.

Connect with other likeminded women on Growing Old Disgracefully.

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