“The term menopause itself is often misunderstood. Few women understand that menopause is the point in time when the ovaries stop producing female hormones, usually defined when a woman has not had a period for 12 months” commented Sarah Bolt CEO, Founder of Forth. “However, it is actually the transition phase called perimenopause where women experience the vast number of symptoms associated with changing hormone levels”.
Menopause is a natural but significant part of every woman’s life, with women beginning to experience the perimenopause in their 40s. The transition to menopause can take over five years.
As Forth’s Chief Medical Officer and endocrinology Dr Nicky Keay explains, “Menopause is a normal physiological process in a woman’s life. Understanding and being prepared for this phase in your life will mean you are in a good position to meet the challenges of this life stage and to maintain your quality of life”.
However, the survey found that 60% of women don’t feel comfortable talking about these changes to their partner, about half won’t speak to their family and one in 10 wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about their experience with anyone.
According to the survey, only 10% of men understand what the perimenopause is or the age women are likely to start experiencing symptoms. Moreover, nearly 75% of women don’t understand this either. This lack of understanding means that 85% of all respondents feel unable to support someone going through the perimenopause.
In terms of seeking support and understanding about symptoms, close to a quarter of people in the UK think that GPs are specifically trained in treating the perimenopause/menopause, yet it is an optional module for trainee doctors to study.
The survey also confirmed that many people in the UK are misinformed about the symptoms of the perimenopause. Indeed, although most could identify symptoms like hot flushes, irregular periods and difficulty sleeping, a third incorrectly cited increased hair growth (31%) and vitamin deficiencies (31%) as symptoms.
Surprisingly, this misconception is more common among women than men. What is more, half of respondents didn’t associate the perimenopause with difficulty sleeping, anxiety/depression or memory loss, and only one in five know that irregular heartbeat can be a symptom of the perimenopause (although other causes should be ruled out). There is a serious stigma still surrounding the menopause, and this, coupled with a lack of knowledge, prevents women from receiving the help they need.
“With increasing life expectancy, women are spending more time of their life in the menopausal state. So, looking for strategies to enjoy this part of your life is time well spent.”, says Dr Nicky Keay.
As well as Menopause Awareness Month in October, Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East and deputy leader of Welsh Labour, is also fighting to bridge the health inequalities gap. She has launched a private member’s bill, Menopause (Support and Services) which will have its second reading in the House Of Commons on October 29th. If successful, it would exempt hormone replacement therapy (HRT) from NHS prescription charges in England.
Forth is an advocate for putting a greater focus on closing the gender health inequalities gap for women. One of their first projects was developing Female Hormone Mapping, a ground-breaking product that combines AI with blood analysis and clinical expertise to predict how women’s hormones fluctuate throughout their entire cycle, unique to them rather than on a single day which is current clinical practice. It’s a game-changer for women particularly those who want the certainty of entering the perimenopause, a time of life where women are unfortunately lacking sufficient support.
For more information about the survey, Female Hormone Mapping please visit here
Research conducted on behalf of Forth between 21/05-27/05/2021. 2,001 UK adults. All research conducted adheres to the UK Market Research Society (MRS) code of conduct (2019).