Perimenopause and menopause are clearly life disrupters for women. Anyone who has experienced them can tell you! These major changes cause big biological impacts and affect work, too. Yet, we do not see or read much about them.
The impacts of perimenopause and menopause affect all aspects of our society, not just the individual women who are experiencing it at the time. Learn more about perimenopause and menopause so that you can be prepared, for yourself and those you care about.
Whether a woman has a pregnancy or not, hormonal and biological shifts still occur to prepare a woman’s body to conceive. Carrying and delivering a baby is a major life change and what some fail to realize, it is also a major medical event.
There are several developmental stages that most women go through:
- Girlhood; before adolescence*
- Puberty; maturation and preparation for pregnancy*
- Perimenopause; maturation away from pregnancy towards menopause
Women are different and diverse; we do not all experience the same things at the same time. While some girls and women experience these events without much drama, some women and girls have a lot of difficulties.
However, one thing has been proven for sure: menopause impacts women’s work.
During this critical stage, both girls and boys begin to formulate their own identities. In addition to raging hormones and emotional challenges, they also undergo sometimes radical physical changes. Height, weight, weight, hair, body odor, all of it changes very quickly.
School counselors and administrators are familiar with these changes, yet often defer to parental authority when it comes to managing the symptoms.
Symptoms of puberty include:
- Breast development
- Mood changes
- Growth of pubic and other body hair
- Growth spurt(s)
- Onset of menstruation (advanced puberty)
Perimenopause, the stage before menopause, usually occurs in your 40’s or 50’s. Female sex hormones naturally decrease over time and eventually, the ovaries will stop releasing eggs.
According to Payscale, women reach their peak earning potential at age 44, often holding leadership positions.
The timing is really interesting because this is around the same time that most women enter perimenopause.
Perimenopausal women are experienced adults and are usually expected to figure it out. Often without support from significant others, peers, family, and work, women experiencing symptoms of perimenopause are expected to suffer in insolation.
Most women enter menopause by age 52 unless they have another medical event that impacts their uterus, such as a hysterectomy or cancer before that time.
Menopause is not just hot flashes. It is mood and mental health challenges, sleep deprivation, and physical changes as hormones decrease.
Most women spend literally years in perimenopause before entering the menopause phase.
A woman is not considered to be in menopause until she has no menstruation for 12 consecutive months.
It is different for everyone, but common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Insomnia and sleep difficulties
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Muscle aches
- Bone loss
As you can see, these symptoms can be debilitating. Like other medical conditions, perimenopause can be the reason that women quit their jobs. This is not right!
Family and peer support are key to smoothly transition through these life stages, which can be plagued with difficulty. A supportive supervisor has been shown to make all the difference when it comes to working women managing perimenopause and menopause symptoms in the workplace.
Finally, by removing the stigma associated with these common life experiences for women, we can put more policies in place for empathy, understanding, and access to helpful resources. Let’s not be afraid to talk about it.
What do you think? Comment below.
*Sisterhood Agenda explains these changes in its A Journey Toward Womanhood program for teenage girls.
Photo credit: Pexels Koolshooters
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