This is a critical message for the long-term plan and any women’s health strategy that might be included within it. Looking across a woman’s life course, there are a number of concerns that fall into the prepare rather than prevent category. Menopause is one of them.
Menopause affects all women in some way. Approximately 13 million women in the UK are either peri- or post menopausal. Its impact can be far reaching both physically and mentally:
During menopause, 25% of women experience severely debilitating symptoms, 33% suffer with anxiety, almost 50% feel depressed and over 60% experience symptoms resulting in behaviour changes according to a Nuffield Health survey
This physical and mental impact can in turn have an effect on a woman’s social interaction and relationships. According to the British Menopause Society, 23% of women feel more isolated during menopause, 32% feel they are no longer good company and 51% say that it has affected their sex lives
Most women will experience menopause symptoms when they are of working age. 45% of women say they feel their menopause symptoms have had a negative impact on their work, with 20% taking time off to deal with menopausal symptoms
Despite the impact menopause can have on a woman’s life, only 38% of women seek help from a GP. Of those, 25% say the possibility of the symptoms being menopause related is missed. 33% are not made aware of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). For women who need more specialist care, as of 2014 there were only 29 NHS menopause clinics in the UK, with waiting times for appointments of up to six months.
These statistics reveal urgent action is needed at all levels to ensure women get the care they deserve. Menopause clinics and services must be available across the country. GPs need better training to ensure symptoms are not missed and treatments options are shared. Finally, women should be encouraged to seek the help they need.
Across a woman’s life course there are a range of needs that cannot be prevented. However, they can – and should – be anticipated and planned for.