Yesterday I hosted the Swansea City ‘Let’s Talk Menopause in The Workplace’ ‘Conference at the Swansea.com stadium. It might seem odd that I, a man of mature years, should have been asked to host the event, and I’ll return to that later, but I’m really glad I was there.
Wearing the Menovest is no laughing matter!
This wasn’t my first Menopause event. Back in the summer I had been invited by Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris to go to Jersey Park to try on the MenoVest. The MenoVest is a Gillet with internal heating patches that work at random. The idea is you make a man wear it and it helps him understand the unpredictable and unpleasant hot flushes endured by so many women going through the menopause.
I had thought it was going to be a small gathering with maybe a camera crew in attendance to record my discomfort. I have to say I was a little surprised when I arrived to find a room full of mainly women. As I said at the time, I felt like Daniel in a room full of Lions.
If my first encounter with ‘The Menopause’ and ‘MenoVest’ was to show individual women how they could find help with their symptoms and enlighten men yesterday’s conference was to encourage businesses to be more menopause aware.
The conference brought together businesses from across the region to learn more about how menopause can affect women, and their partners, and how that can affect their bottom line. It also wanted to show business leaders best practice and how they can work to help staff through the menopause without losing them from the workforce.
I got to the stadium nice and early to find the room and chat to the organisers. As I was making some notes a man popped his head around the door. ‘Is this the Legal Conference?’ he asked. As soon as I said that it was a conference about the menopause, he looked shocked and couldn’t run away fast enough. One of the young male members of staff at the Swans was running the audio-visual side of the event. I asked him what if anything he knew about the menopause. His replay was simple and to the point ‘Nothing!’. It was pretty clear the menopause either frightened men or had passed them by completely.
I do remember my own mother going through ‘the change’. If anything it was a source of hilarity. For a year or so she went everywhere with a battery operated fan that she carried in her handbag. As I listened to the various speakers I somehow felt slightly ashamed of my reaction to what she went through. I felt sorry that we probably didn’t support her as much as we should have and I felt slightly angry at my ignorance of what for some is a life changing experience.
Carolyn Harris MP Swansea East
First up to speak was Carolyn Harris MP. Carolyn has become a champion for the cause in Westminster and now works alongside people like Davina McCall and Penny Lancaster in fighting to put menopause on the political and medical agenda. Carolyn explained that ‘the change’ had never been explained to her growing up and that for years she had been misdiagnosed leading to her being prescribed antidepressants.
Our wonderful @ThisisDavina had a message for the over 60 #SouthWales employers gathered in #swansea stadium to learn about #menopause— Carolyn Harris MP (@carolynharris24) October 14, 2022
All of YOU who are reading this, campaigning and shouting about #menopause are making a difference!
Keep up the good fight 👊 pic.twitter.com/TuSCHGDl5H
Other speakers talked about how frightened they had been when they suddenly experienced brain fog or loss of libido or aches and pains that stopped them from getting out of bed in the morning. The results of these symptoms led to problems in relationships, loss of confidence and even losing their jobs.
The menopause costs the Welsh economy £ 1 billion
Apart from the personal tragedy of undiagnosed Menopause this ‘illness’ costs businesses and the country millions if not billions of pounds. Imagine having a well-trained experienced work colleague who has to give up her job because of the menopause. What a personal waste in human terms, but also, what a loss to the company. Years of experience and all the money they have invested in that colleague lost. With an ageing population we just cannot afford to lose people when there are solutions available.
That was probably the most uplifting part of the conference. Now that The Menopause is openly talked about there are lots of strategies and treatments available to help address the symptoms but also to manage the menopause.
Dr Sander Hlaing – A Swansea GP who specialises in the Menopause
In the past the medical profession itself has been unaware of the tell-tale signs that show a woman is either starting to go through or is going through the menopause. In most people’s minds the menopause happens to women of a certain age and involves hot flushes. The truth is it’s not impossible for young women to go through an early menopause. Many women do have hot flushes, but some don’t. They could experience; night sweats, mood changes, weight gain, brain fogs. It is only through telling women what to look out for that they can identify the early symptoms and seek help.
Many women now take regular HRT, Hormone Replacement Therapy, with this being on free prescription in Wales. But that isn’t right for everyone. During the course of the morning we were introduced to the Balance App, a free download which helps users track their symptoms with help and advice on how to manage them without the use of medication.
The Menopause Workplace Pledge
Businesses were encouraged to look at simple changes that could help their staff from uniforms to sanitary products to understanding the need to support staff when the going gets tough.
As I was listening to the speakers I did think about my mum who we lost this year. They were a tough generation who didn’t like to complain. As I looked up from the stadium I could see The Liberty Church, formerly known as New Siloh. That was where my mother had sheltered for a night or so during the 1941 Blitz. In her 90’s, and as my father’s primary carer, she knew if anything happened to her my dad would have to go into care. When she slipped and fell she managed to persuade us that her pain was merely sciatica. It was fully 3 days before she allowed herself to be properly examined and they found that she had snapped her hip.
I don’t know exactly how bad her Menopause symptoms were because it was something we would never have talked about. All I know was she fought it on her own armed only with a battery operated fan. Thank goodness for the Menopause warriors. Hopefully my daughters and granddaughter will be in a much better position when their time comes.
And yes I’m glad they asked me to host the event. This is not just a female issue. The menopause affects everyone. It needs women to have the facts and it needs men to understand that the menopause is really no laughing matter.