I hope I live long enough to reach menopausal age, but I hadn’t really thought about it until this year. Speaking about menopause has been a taboo for a range of reasons, such a taboo that sometimes it goes unnamed. You may be more familiar with the terms ‘the change’, ‘empty nest syndrome’ or even ‘the M word’; it’s the countdown that the proverbial ‘body clock’ is ticking towards.
Recently I’ve been hearing more women in my working and advocacy life talk about it, and when they do it seems like the symptoms came out of nowhere and caught them off guard. Evidence shows that black women are more likely to experience more menopausal symptoms and at an earlier age. We’re likely to experience the symptoms whilst we’re still working and possibly at one of the most senior points in our careers. It would be helpful to know more before symptoms hit, as one study has estimated that 10% of all people who experience menopausal symptoms leave work permanently.
The menopause marks a transition into older life, when periods stop and you are no longer able to get pregnant naturally. There are different stages: premenopause (before any symptoms), perimenopause (when menopausal symptoms first begin) and postmenopause (12 months after your last period). It’s a natural part of ageing caused by a change in hormone levels, and it usually happens between 45 and 55 years old, but it can happen earlier. Around one in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age, according to the NHS.