The Impact of Perimenopause & Menopause Symptoms at Work

Millions of Women are Impacted by Menopause Symptoms at Work

More than a third of the 39 million+ working women over 40 in the U.S. have perimenopause and menopause symptoms that impact their work.

The Brownie Bites quick takeaway:
We need to:
💰 Understand the financial and economic impact.
🛑 Stop the stigma.
Enable flexible schedules.
🏡 Allow remote work.
🥑 Cover the cost of lifestyle changes that alleviate symptoms.
👩‍⚕️ Encourage midlife healthcare.

Imagine going to work, commuting, sitting in an office all day with very little sleep. Now let’s add on headaches and a period so heavy it requires going to the bathroom every hour. And just a few more symptoms like bloating, hot flashes, heart palpitations, rapid weight gain, brain fog, and irritability.
 
It’s no wonder that a 2023 study conducted by Carrot Fertility found that “80% of respondents cited menopause as a workplace challenge, less than 20% understood symptoms before they began, and more than half considered making an employment change because of menopause.”
 
And yet another study on menopausal women at work discovered that it impacts women’s mental health as well:

“Over one-third of [the studied women] reported moderate to severe difficulty coping at work related to these symptoms, and risk factors for difficulty coping included financial insecurity, poorer self-rated physical health, depression, and adverse psychosocial work factors (e.g., reported job insecurity, job dissatisfaction, or feelings of being unappreciated).”

Balancing work with menopause symptoms
proves challenging for many women.

Based on workdays missed
due to menopause symptoms,
we estimate an annual loss of $1.8 billion in the United States.”

Mayo Clinic; “Impact of Menopause Symptoms on
Women in the Workplace.”

Menopause Ceiling?

We’ve got glass ceilings as working women, and apparently, we have a menopause ceiling. Our own bodies wreck havoc with a rollercoaster of hormones so unpredictable the only solution seems to be quitting.

Unfortunately many of these symptoms start just as we are finally experiencing career growth and success—and moving into leadership positions.
 
According to a Mayo Clinic study, 23% of women have considered quitting or have actually quit because of menopause symptoms.

They miss work at a rate estimated to cost $1.8 billion in lost working time. The study found 87% of working women in midlife want their employer to be more supportive of their health challenges during this time.
 
The Carrot Fertility study found 27% of American women reported needing to take more breaks and 33% of women felt their symptoms hindered their career growth.

Women are opting to quit their jobs rather than deal with the challenges of menopause symptoms at work.
Women are opting to quit their jobs rather than deal with the challenges of menopause symptoms at work.

Hard to Ignore Symptoms


The most common symptoms American women experience on the journey to menopause are hot flashes and night sweats (vasomotor symptoms).
 
I remember thinking hot flashes were no big deal until I experienced them. You wake up in a pool of sweat, change your sheets at 3am, and need a shower. Not exactly conducive to waking up at 6am to start your workday. I have a blog about 50 symptoms of perimenopause–it’s almost unbelievable the things women go through in midlife.

With overwhelming fatigue and other symptoms, is it any wonder that another study found that, “Women with severe menopausal symptoms felt less motivated at work and that this provokes some women to consider changing jobs, reducing their working hours or leaving the workforce altogether.”
 
How many studies will it take until we take this seriously?

fire, burn, hot-1210544.jpg

It WILL Happen To You Or Someone You Know

I’ve spoken to dozens of women in their late thirties who told me they’re not concerned about menopause or perimenopause. Neither are their male partners. Somehow menopause is seen as something in the very distant future.

The thing is, menopause symptoms can start as early as mid-thirties. In fact, some of the fertility issues women face in their thirties are perimenopause related!

Approximately 1.3 million American women become menopausal each year and there are, according to U.S. census data, an estimated 55 million women currently in menopause. If you have a uterus and live long enough, you WILL go through menopause. It’s not optional.

Menopause refers to just one day (the day after 12 months without a period). Perimenopause refers to the years—sometimes more than a decade– leading up to it. I’ve read estimates of the U.S. market size anywhere between 15 million women with active perimenopause symptoms, to 40 million. It’s challenging to even find this data since this entire population has mostly been ignored.

Big chance you, or someone you know, is going through this whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker, your boss, or a business partner.

The Cost to Employers


Employers can make modifications that enable women to work during midlife. They can also create benefit programs that help cover the cost of treatments to alleviate or eradicate many symptoms. 

“Workplaces that don’t recognize the issue are at risk of losing talented senior women, said Carrot Chief Executive Officer Tammy Sun.

 “A lot of the most skilled and most valuable women who are leaders are in this group and the replacement costs for those leaders is much higher than average,” she said. 

Even if employers don’t necessarily care about the health of their midlife women employees, they may care about the impact on their bottom line. When women experience symptoms that mean absenteeism or productivity loss, or unanticipated time from urgent treatments, it effects the bottom line.

A study published in Occupational Medicine found that “Manager awareness and flexible schedules were considered the most beneficial workplace supports.”
 
The Carrot Fertility study found “Nearly half [of the women in the study] have considered changing jobs to find remote work so they can better manage symptoms, and 22% have considered retiring early.”

Perhaps it’s time for employers to accommodate more flexible schedules including remote work, 4 day work-weeks, and other solutions.

My Story

My Work Was Impacted

I lost work opportunities, refused to go on business trips, and had to take nearly 6 months off for my perimenopause issues. Because I run my own business it didn’t affect me as much as other women without flexibility on working hours and conditions. More important, I was able to resolve my issues and get the treatment and recovery time I needed to be symptom-free. Not everyone has that ability. Things need to change, and it starts with awareness.
 
Buckle up, I’m going to talk about something that I guarantee will make people uncomfortable (this is some of the extra content that goes on my blog, but not on LinkedIn….because even I am afraid to tell it all in a professional environment).
 
I remember one business trip which unfortunately coincided with what I called my “crime scene” periods.
 
It wasn’t that heavy on the way out to the destination, but the moment I got to the hotel it was completely disastrous. I barely got any sleep. Despite the temperature in the traveled-to city being nearly 80 degrees, I brought only black clothes. I looked pregnant. Imagine having to focus on high-level strategy meanings when you’re convinced blood will seep through your clothes.
 
After a full day which included a lunch and a dinner…I flew back home and had an accident on the plane. Never was I so mortified in my life.
 
I told this story to one of my neighbors last year, and she confessed she’d also had an accident on a plane after a business trip. Two people! In one building in one city!

Get the Treatment to Alleviate Symptoms


 
Interestingly enough (or horribly sad), both my neighbor and I were told by healthcare professionals to “wait out” our symptoms until menopause. We suffered for years when we didn’t need to. Both of us had treatments that completely alleviated all perimenopause symptoms. Imagine if we treated our symptoms years prior before things got unruly.
 
The more we share our stories the more things can change.

We can help women manage their menopause symptoms and work full time if they choose to. It takes understanding from employers, help getting the treatments to alleviate symptoms, and modifications to our working environments.

6 Ways to Keep Menopausal Women in The Workforce

 
1. Understand the financial and economic impact: When we acknowledge that almost a quarter of the workforce is going through this we elevate its importance.

2. Stop the stigma: When we talk about it, we normalize it.

3. Enable flexible schedules: We can trust women to get our work done on timetables that allow us to take care of ourselves as well.

4. Allow remote work: Not all jobs can be performed at home, but many professional positions can. Remote work enables women who care for children or elderly parents (or both) have successful careers. It helps women care for themselves as well. That includes going to healthcare appointments (for ourselves!) and not having to worry about dressing up when we’re in the throes of major symptoms. It also includes getting the treatments to alleviate or even eradicate symptoms, and to recover from these treatments.

5. Cover the cost of lifestyle changes that alleviate symptoms: Cover the cost of diet and fitness programs, or stress-reduction programs such as meditation. Employers may offer more plant-based meals in the cafeteria, or discounts to plant-based delivery services. Employers could cover the cost of acupuncture and massage.

6. Encourage midlife healthcare: Employers can advocate for women to go to the doctor. They can give time off to help women recover from treatments. Employers may consider insurance plans that pay for lab work, ultrasounds, and other diagnostics. PPOs can also go a long way for women to get a second opinion (since we are often gaslit in healthcare).

What’s Your Take

Has Your Work Been Impacted By Menopause Symptoms?


 
Please share your story below if you or someone you know has experienced challenges at work during midlife.

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