How the Change Changes Work, Mache Seibel, MD

Being a woman in the workplace, you know how difficult it can be to balance life and work. As a women’s health and menopause expert, I see a lot of women dealing with just this issue. In this post I want to share with you how and why it may seem even more challenging as you approach The Change Menopause (or dreadopause as my patients sometimes call it), may seem like something that happens to women who are well into their 50s. But 10% of women enter menopause before age 45 and 1% before age 40; and the symptoms may begin as long as 10 years before that. That 10-year window is called peri-menopause.

During this time many women tell me they just can’t make sense of what’s happening to their body. Their symptoms often include difficulty sleeping, a sensitive bladder, and those dreaded hot flashes. And these symptoms have a very important impact on women in the workplace. It’s easy to understand how being tired or having to frequently get up to find an inconveniently located bathroom can impact work. But what about hot flashes? Just a nuisance, right?  Many women think they should just tough them out.

One recent study (Sarrel P, et al, Menopause March 2015) looked at the insurance records of 500,000 women from fortune 500 companies who had a diagnosis of hot flashes. Half the women (250,000) were treated for their hot flashes and the other half was not treated. The half whose hot flashes were not treated had 1.5 million more office visits to their doctor over the next 12 months than the half whose hot flashes were treated, costing three hundred plus millions of dollars. It also cost lost time at work, lost productivity and lost sense of control.

There are 9 million women in the United States with moderate to severe hot flashes that are not treated. If we use the data from the study above and apply it to these 9 million symptomatic women, it would amount to 54 million office visits at a cost of approximately $14 billion annually. And that is just from the symptom of hot flashes.

The take home message is that if you are experiencing some of these symptoms or can’t make sense of what’s happening to your body, it may be due to peri-menopause, even if you are in your late 30s. So it’s important to have a discussion with your doctor; you don’t have to tough it out. There are a lot of effective options available to help you navigate changes during the change, so that you can thrive both at home and at work.

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