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If you can't find what you're looking for here or in our Index, or have any questions please email usThe Occupational Health team can also help you with expert confidential advice and support.

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Menopause Guidance

The purpose of this guidance is to ensure a greater understanding and clarity about what menopause is, what support is available and how this support can be used. 

The principles are:

  • to raise awareness and foster an environment of understanding and open, respectful and honest dialogue that ensures colleagues are comfortable in having conversations about menopause.
  • to provide appropriate information on our web pages about menopause to all colleagues.
  • to ensure appropriate information is available to all managers so that they can support colleagues at work.
  • to consider reasonable adjustments where appropriate.

The University of Exeter has a longstanding commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity. We are working in alignment with the ‘Our People’ theme of the University Strategy 2030 which is to ‘support each other to thrive, be fulfilled and reach our potential. We will celebrate diversity and be inclusive, fair and compassionate in everything we do, prioritising the health and wellbeing of the community’.

What is menopause?

Menopause is part of the natural ageing process. It refers to the time when menstruation has ceased for 12 consecutive months. It is triggered by lower levels of oestrogen, which decrease naturally between the ages of 45 and 55. Whilst it is a natural process, it can brought on earlier by certain things e.g. chemotherapy, hysterectomy.

Helpful definitions of the stages of menopause:

Menopause is when a person stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Menopause typically occurs between 45 and 55 years old, with the average age being 51, however, it can be earlier or later than this due to surgery, illness, genetic pre-disposition to early menopause or other reasons.

Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause when a person may experience changes, such as irregular periods or other menopausal symptoms. This can be years before menopause.

Post menopause is the time after menopause has occurred, starting when a person has not had a period for twelve consecutive months.

 

Symptoms of the menopause

Symptoms can manifest both physically and psychologically including, hot flushes, cold sweats, poor concentration, mood swings, headaches, panic attacks, heavy/light periods, anxiety, loss of confidence, difficulty sleeping and joint stiffness, aches and pains. Symptoms can last for up 14 years but on average most symptoms last 4 years.

It is important to note that not every person will notice every symptom, or even need help or support. Symptoms can also vary in severity. Some people will choose to use HRT (hormone replacement therapy), others will choose to alleviate symptoms with alternative therapies or diet and exercise.

Medical information and support

We recommend that you speak with your GP in the first instance to ensure that you are being medically supported. There is good advice on when and how you can discuss any symptoms you are feeling with your GP on henpicked.net in the menopause advice sheet. It may also be helpful to read the NICE guidelines for people experiencing the menopause. These guidelines summarise what treatment and support is available for you through the NHS. 

University support

The best way to receive support at work is to speak to your manager and explain that you would like a meeting to discuss your work and wellbeing. It is helpful to mention in advance that it is specifically the menopausal symptoms and effects, if you can. This will allow your manager time to read this guidance beforehand and seek any additional help they may need. Below is some advice as to what you can do to prepare for the meeting and what to discuss in the meeting. 

  • Book a time with your manager. This should be somewhere private.
  • It may be helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms and the effect they are having so that you can be specific in the meeting.
  • It may be helpful to aim to explain your situation clearly e.g. if you are experiencing hot flushes, what effect are they having on you? Does it make aspects of your job, e.g. giving presentations, more difficult?
  • Consider ideas that may help you such as practical and reasonable adjustments so that you are ready to suggest these to your manager. For example, if hot flushes are an issue can you move nearer a window or get a desk fan. Try to be flexible and put forward different ideas/solutions. It might also be worthwhile talking about the duration of any adjustments. If you are seeking medical help, it may be that some of your symptoms will be alleviated with medication.
  • Ask for regular reviews to be set up so that you and your manager can discuss your health and wellbeing on a regular basis.

Occupational Health

  • If you think that adjustments to your work may be necessary, ask your manager to refer you to the occupational health service to discuss support and possible work adjustments. If you cannot discuss issues with your manager you can speak to occupational health over the phone to seek initial advice. Obviously without your manager’s knowledge of your situation, some of the support might be limited.
  • When staff are referred to occupational health they will carry out a holistic assessment as to whether or not menopause may be contributing to symptoms or impacting on an individual's wellbeing. Advice and guidance will be given in line with up-to-date research. They will provide support and advice to HR and line managers in determining and agreeing upon reasonable adjustments, if required. They will signpost to appropriate sources of help and advice where needed.

Spectrum Life

  • Colleagues can seek free advice and counseling support from Spectrum Life 24/7.
  • They also provide online information on aspects such as low mood and self-esteem issues.

Further University support

  • Menopause Café - see next tab.
  • Flexible working - It might be relevant to think about how you can adjust your working pattern or times for a temporary basis. Please note that staff in professional service roles may already have access to flexi-time which can be used.
  • Career break – would it help to consider a break from the work environment for a period of time? If so have a look at the career break scheme.

Menopause Café

The Menopause Café is an informal, supportive group for staff members and students meeting every two months. Cafés are a chance for those with an interest in/experience of this topic to meet and chat, whether you are approaching/going through menopause, or know someone who is. These cafés restarted in May 2022 and while they will continue to be run online for the most part, some in-person events will be organised further along on the Streatham and St Luke's campuses. We also plan to have occasional invited speakers on topics related to the menopause and peri-menopause.

If you would like to attend please email Rosie Dixon to put your name on the mailing list: ColleagueWellbeing@exeter.ac.uk. Rosie can also answer practical questions about the group but if you have more involved queries around menopause, the groups activities and direction, please contact Dr Louise Pendry (group facilitator) direct. Suggestions for speakers are also very welcome.

 

Cornwall - Penryn Menopause café.

Our colleagues at the Penryn campus are in the process of organising their own Menopause café so that in-person sessions can happen there too. The inaugural group was held at the Penryn Wellbeing Festival on the 15th of June 2022 and more information will be added here when future café dates are set.

External info

  • Henpicked has some good advice about speaking to your manager about menopause. 
  • The free Balance app allows you to track your symptoms, access personalised expert content, download a Health Report, share stories in the community and lots more. The app has lots of very good feedback and is brought to you by renowned menopause specialist, Dr Louise Newson and the thousands of people who’ve shared their perimenopause and menopause insights.
  • The NHS web pages have information and advice about menopause. 
  • Guidance from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians suggests the following:
    • Find out more about the menopause from available sources of information
    • See your GP for advice on available treatment options.
    • Discuss your practical needs with your line manager, HR or another manager you feel comfortable talking to.
    • Use technology where this is helpful, e.g. for reminders or note-taking.
    • If those you work with are supportive, this can make a big difference. Talk about your symptoms and solutions with colleagues, particularly those who are also experiencing symptoms, use humour to deflect embarrassment, and work out your preferred coping strategies and working patterns.
    • Avoid hot flush triggers (such as hot food and drinks), especially before presentations or meetings.
    • Consider relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and other potentially helpful techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy, as these can help reduce the impact of symptoms.
    • Consider lifestyle changes such as weight reduction, smoking cessation and exercise.

Books

At the last Menopause Cafe several books were recommended by the facilitator and other participants. You may wish to have a look at these. If you have any others you would like us to add please email us at ColleagueWellbeing@exeter.ac.uk.

Ageing books

Menopause books

  • Managing Hot flushes – Myra Hunter and Melanie Smith
  • Menopause – Deborah Garlick
  • Menopause: All you need to know in one concise manual - Dr Louise Newson