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81 per cent of women say their employer does not provide menopause support

Two thirds of women do not feel able to speak to their boss about the issues they face 

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Research commissioned by the wellness platform Gympass shows that women are struggling to work through menopause with empathy and support at the office in short supply.

A staggering 81 per cent of the women aged 45-64 Gympass spoke to say their employer does not provide help and 66 per cent did not feel able to speak to their boss about the challenges they face at work because of their symptoms.

Women make up half the UK’s workforce, with 3.5 million aged 50 to 65 currently in the workplace. Despite the rise in awareness and waves of public support, a stigma remains around menopause in the workplace.

The Gympass survey reveals that 45 per cent of perimenopausal and menopausal employed women aged 45-64 have felt embarrassed by their menopause symptoms at work and a third of women have pretended their symptoms were something else at work to avoid mentioning their menopause by name.

The menopause symptoms most frequently experienced at work are hot flushes, fatigue, brain fog and anxiety. These symptoms in the workplace can seriously impact women’s experience and enjoyment of work. Worryingly, 56 per cent said that stress at work makes menopause symptoms worse, leaving women in a vicious circle.

Almost a fifth of women have left a meeting or another room at work due to their menopause symptoms, and a quarter have taken time off to manage their menopause.

“Our research clearly shows that employers must act quickly to support their colleagues and find ways to help women work through menopause,” says Luke Bullen, CEO at Gympass UK.

“Their effort will definitely pay dividends in terms of retaining the experience and talent of mid-life women with our research showing 90 per cent of women would be ‘more likely’ or ‘a lot more likely’ to join or stay at a company that has a menopause support plan.”

Responding to the research findings, the wellness platform has created a Menopause Hub offering free lifestyle advice and exercise guidance for women in partnership with WILD.ai – an app that specialises in providing programmes in tune with women’s physiology at every stage of their life.

Alongside this, Gympass has also collaborated with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace to create a free eBook Working Through Menopause to support employers and signpost them to resources, advice and training solutions.

Deborah Garlick, CEO of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, adds that: “These findings are not a surprise to us and reflect previous research.

“We see people every day who are struggling with menopause symptoms and with an increasing focus on menopause generally, more and more people are asking what their employers are doing. Six years ago, a menopause policy was unheard of, so we are seeing progress.

“Thankfully, forward-looking employers already recognise the compelling need and are reaping the benefits,” Garlick continues. “Many have now achieved Menopause Friendly Accreditation, demonstrating they’ve created a workplace where it’s easy to talk about menopause, raised awareness and support and trained their line managers and colleagues. The first UK employers to be accredited were HSBC UK, first direct, M&S Bank, ATOS and Aster Group.“

Luke Bullen suggests that: “Employers can start making improvements straight away through simple changes such as having a quiet breakout room, providing more cool water stations and offering flexible working hours to help colleagues manage their menopause symptoms at work.

“We would also recommend employers organise training for all colleagues about the menopause, nominate and train staff as Menopause Champions to lend support and take steps towards being accredited as a Menopause Friendly business.”

Access the Menopause Hub and download the free Working Through Menopause eBook here.

Sorina Mihaila is the Femtech World editor, covering technology, research and innovation in women's health. Sorina is also a contributor for the neuro-rehabilitation magazine NR Times.

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US virtual care clinic Midi Health to expand in all 50 states

The clinic provides insurance-covered, expert care for women in perimenopause and menopause

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The US virtual care clinic Midi Health will expand its services in all 50 states in an effort to help women navigate menopause.

Midi Health aims to provide holistic perimenopause and menopause care and help women navigate the midlife hormonal transition through virtual care.

The company offers personalised care plans and services, including hormonal and non-hormonal medications, supplements, lifestyle coaching and vital preventative health guidance.

Over 6,000 women in the US reach menopause every day, which is defined as starting 12 months after a woman’s last period.

On average, they reach menopause at 51, but perimenopause can occur much earlier. This lead-up period, when hormones can fluctuate wildly and symptoms may be at their worst and most unpredictable, lasts four to seven years, although in some cases it can extend as long as a decade.

Symptoms, which may include hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, depression, brain fog, memory loss and genitourinary problems, have a significant impact on women’s quality of life and career growth.

“We can’t talk about women’s success at work without talking about menopause,” said Joanna Strober, CEO and co-founder of Midi Health.

“With far too few practitioners trained in managing menopause, women are underdiagnosed, undertreated and underserved.

“Midi provides an insurance-covered solution that focuses on women’s unique needs, closing a major gap in health access, quality and equity.”

She added: “We are expanding rapidly to ensure that we can support employers and employees in all 50 states with Midi’s care.”

The expansion comes weeks after Strober announced a US$25m funding round from Google Ventures (GV) aimed at accelerating partnerships with hospital systems and major US employers, bringing the company’s total funding raised to date to US$40m. 

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Updated menopause toolkit to help doctors provide better care

The toolkit includes new advice and therapies for assessing and treating menopause-related health issues

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An updated toolkit that guides health professionals in treating menopause health issues has been published in an effort to improve care for women globally.

Endorsed by the International, Australasian and British Menopause Societies, the Endocrine Society of Australia and Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, the 2023 practitioner’s toolkit for managing the menopause is designed to be used anywhere in the world.  

The toolkit, published originally in 2014, has been updated with new advice and therapies based on a systematic review of the latest menopause research and best practice.

The new version includes bone health guidance, such as recommendations about when menopause hormone therapies might be needed to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis in asymptomatic women.

The update also incorporates new medications including fezolinetant for hot flushes, ospemifene for painful sex, and vaginal DHEA for vaginal dryness.

First author and Monash University women’s health research programme head professor Susan Davis, who also led development of the toolkit in 2014, said the update included some new therapies but did not support menopause hormone therapies for cognitive symptoms or clinical depression.

“Clinical trials have not shown a benefit of menopause hormone therapies for cognitive function,” she explained.

“The most robust studies have shown it to be no better than placebo.”

She added: “Regarding depression, menopause may cause symptoms such as low mood, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings, but clinical depression needs to be assessed and managed in its own right.

“Menopause might exacerbate underlying depression but should not be assumed to be the cause of clinical depression.”

Davis said the advice was now much clearer around preventing bone loss and fracture.

“To our knowledge this is the only document that provides guidance for using hormone therapy to prevent fracture. Other recommendations have been vague such as ‘can be used to prevent bone loss/fracture’ or ‘use to treat osteopenia’.”

The author said it was important for women to see their GP if they experienced troubling physical or mental health symptoms.

“We have updated this as part of an NHMRC Grant to upskill GPs and to embed the care algorithms into GP practice software in the MenoPROMPT study programme, which aims to improve care for women who need it. This is a very important feature of this update.”

Senior author Dr Rakib Islam, from the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine women’s health research programme, said the updates would make a difference for many.

“The 2023 practitioner’s toolkit is the most up-to-date evidence-based practical guidance for health care providers to menopause care globally,” he said.

The paper’s authors said the recommendations needed to be applied in the context of local availability and the cost of investigations and drug therapies.

“Most importantly, the toolkit provides the full spectrum of available options and therefore can be used to support shared decision making, and patient-informed care,” they added.

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US fertility benefits provider to introduce perimenopause and menopause support

Patients will be able to have access to specialist health providers trained in menopause and perimenopause care

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The US fertility benefits company WIN is to launch a new initiative to help women access perimenopause and menopause support.

The WIN PowerPause programme aims to provide women with perimenopause and menopause support and help patients access specialty care through the virtual menopause clinics Midi Health and Visana Health.

Nurse care advocates will be able to discuss with women perimenopause and menopause symptoms and help them prepare questions to ask their provider during doctor visits. They can also match patients with providers best suited to treat their symptoms.

Patients in all 50 states will have access to providers who are specially trained in menopause and perimenopause care.

WIN says its PowerPause project will also ensure patients have access to behavioural health coaching, nutritional guidance, and prescription medications.

“We are proud to roll out WIN PowerPause to simultaneously address both health and business concerns,” said Roger Shedlin, president and CEO at WIN.

“At WIN, our clients recognise that overlooking menopause care widens the equity gap, given the impact perimenopause and menopause can have on women at a critical time in their careers.

“This is especially true for members in the BIPOC community who tend to experience longer transition periods with more intense symptoms.

“Employers offering comprehensive women’s healthcare to employees is a strategic investment in supporting diverse workforces and fostering a healthier, more productive and engaged team.”

Shelly MacConnell, chief strategy officer at WIN, said: “The population navigating menopause and perimenopause have been underserved, misdiagnosed, or even mistreated due to lack of specialised support and care coordination—until now.

“Through WIN PowerPause and the partnerships with Midi Health and Visana Health, WIN’s goal is to help patients minimise the impact of their symptoms and support them in finding the highest levels of care through seamless coordination.

“This creates a positive patient experience during what can be a stressful and uncertain time in a woman’s life.”

Joe Connolly, co-founder and CEO at Visana Health, added: “We are proud to partner with WIN, a long-standing and trusted fertility benefit company, to provide our patients with access to fertility care and family-building resources.

“This partnership also provides employer partners with the most comprehensive women’s health solution that meets the needs of all women in the workplace, regardless of what stage of life they’re in.”

Joanna Strober, co-founder and CEO of Midi Health, said: “Midi is excited to partner with WIN to expand access to expert-level care for women. Perimenopause and menopause symptoms are treatable, and there is no reason for women to just power through.

“With care protocols created by world-class specialists and a team of highly trained clinicians, Midi’s treatment ensures women are heard and treated appropriately.”

Each year in the U.S., nearly US$1.8bn is lost in work productivity due to menopause symptoms and the associated chronic, yet preventable, conditions, but quality menopause care is hard to find.

Only 1,500 providers worldwide are menopause certified, less than 20 per cent of OB/GYNs receive menopause training, and nearly three-quarters of women report not receiving the necessary treatment for menopause symptoms.

“Menopause is a profound and transformative period in a woman’s life, and it deserves the same level of specialised attention and expertise,” said Dr Lubna Pal, professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine and consulting medical director and at WIN.

“Offering dedicated menopause care allows women the knowledge and support they need to navigate this transition in life.”

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