Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

responses to some common queries about the menopause

This page contains responses to some common queries about the menopause - how it can affect people, how its impact can be mitigated and how managers can incorporate an appreciation of the menopause into how they manage staff.

What is the menopause?

The menopause is a natural stage of life for women, usually in their late forties/early fifties. It can also happen earlier or later. For many women symptoms last about four years, but in some cases can last longer - up to 12 years.

Part of the process includes what is termed the 'perimenopause' when a woman's body is starting to change in the build-up to the menopause. The perimenopause usually starts in the mid-forties, but can start earlier or later and last several years. The perimenopause is not the same as an early menopause. See The early menopause section further into this guidance.

Perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms already affect a substantial number of people in work. That number is expected to grow considerably, with more older workers forecast to stay in or go back to work. 

It's important to keep in mind that certain surgery, rather than natural ageing, can trigger the menopause in a woman. Also, a trans man - someone who proposes to go through, is going through or has gone through a process, or part of a process, to change their gender from woman to man - may go through perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.

What are possible symptoms of the menopause?

The number of symptoms of the menopause can vary from person to person, and range from very mild to severe.

Some symptoms of perimenopause and menopause can be the same. They can include:

  • difficulty sleeping and night sweats
  • feeling tired and lacking energy
  • mood swings
  • feeling anxious and panic attacks
  • hot flushes
  • struggling to remember things, concentrate and focus
  • taking longer to recover from illness
  • irregular periods which can become heavier
  • aches and pains including muscle and joint stiffness
  • urinary problems
  • headaches including migraines
  • putting on weight
  • noticeable heartbeats
  • skin irritation
  • dry eyes

If someone does not get the help and support they need, it is increasingly likely that the effects of the menopause can, for example, lead to them:

  • feeling ill
  • losing confidence to do their job
  • suffering from mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression
  • leaving their job

What is the 'early menopause'?

As many as one in 20 women may go through an early menopause. It may happen for various reasons, including if a woman has had certain medical conditions and health treatment.

Employers, managers, supervisors and team leaders need to be aware that medically this can be a complicated area, and they should take this into account in supporting a worker through the menopause.

You can find out more about the early menopause here

What is a 'surgical menopause'?

Surgical menopause is triggered by the removal of a woman's ovaries, even if she is young.

Menopause symptoms will start straight away after the surgery if the woman has had both ovaries removed. If the woman has lost only one ovary, there is a chance the symptoms will start within five years of the surgery. Ovaries are part of a woman's reproductive system.

Surgical menopause can increase the risks of cancer, heart disease, weaker bones, depression and anxiety.

You can find out more about the surgical menopause here.

Why do many people not reveal their menopause symptoms? 

Currently, many people do not disclose their menopausal symptoms at work. In addition, many who take time off work because of the menopause do not tell their employer the real reasons for their absence.

For example, this can be because a person feels:

  • their symptoms are a private and/or personal matter
  • their symptoms might be embarrassing for them and/or the person they would be confiding in
  • they do not know their line manager well enough
  • wary because their line manager is a man, or younger or unsympathetic

Other worries include that:

  • their symptoms will not be taken seriously
  • if they do talk, their symptoms will become widely known at work
  • they will be thought to be less capable
  • their job security and/or chances of promotion will be harmed

I've read about the 'male menopause' - what is this? 

The 'male menopause' - sometimes called the andropause - is a misleading term. While it's true that men can develop a range of physical and emotional symptoms in their late 40s to early 50s, this isn't the result of a sudden drop in testosterone. Instead, lifestyle and/or psychological factors are usually responsible for many of these symptoms. 

You can find out more information about these symptoms and their potential causes on the NHS website, as well as some suggested responses.