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World Menopause Day 2021

A blog from PSA Gender Lead Emma Richards:

My name is Emma and I am perimenopausal. Yes, that’s right, I have confessed.
 I write in a ‘tongue in cheek’ way of course, but let’s not hide the fact that for most people, ‘revealing’ this fact feels like a scary confession, and for most, it will be closely guarded as a personal secret.
But why?

What on earth are we hiding?
Women have no more control over their body entering the perimenopause or the menopause than they do over aging day by day. It is the natural evolution of the human body and something we should all understand, accept and talk about.
I’m not suggesting for a second that we should like it – but it’s part of human life.
For me, discovering I had entered the perimenopause was something of a revelation. Up to that point, I idea what it was and had never heard of this term.
It is the time when women’s hormone levels change and their ovaries start to produce fewer eggs. It is the lead up to the menopause, which can have some pretty significant symptoms that really affect your day-to-day wellbeing.

I attended a menopause training day and heard about the 70+ symptoms that are linked to this stage of life and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Something clicked and everything about the way I had been feeling started to make sense.
I’m the superintendent in the Met’s Taskforce, responsible for operational divisions including the Territorial Support Group and Dog Support Unit across London. My confidence and leadership is something I am proud of and I had begun to worry about things I may not have worried about before, and was also feeling more tired than usual, on top of other symptoms.
I then watched Davina McCall’s ‘Sex, myths and the menopause’ which confirmed what the training day had triggered in my mind.
I was experiencing the perimenopause. I knew I had to do something so rang my GP the next day.
As luck would have it, by the time he rang me back the following week, I was in a special ops room with a terrible network signal and by the time he got hold of me I was with a male colleague with whom I was carrying out an exit interview.  He had to listen to me answering questions about all kinds of personal issues, so when I got off the phone he said “having tropical moments are we?”  
I often think that the situation may have been different had I been with someone who had no direct experience in the conversation he had heard. He may have been embarrassed by it, which is a strange concept.
Why are we embarrassed about talking about something that is entirely natural?

Understanding and speaking about the menopause and perimenopause is a responsibility that sits with all of us in policing but also across the whole of society.  One of the many facts that shocked me within the Davina McCall documentary was that doctors only receive an average of 7 minutes of training on this topic. 7 minutes.
This is not reflective of the fact that it affects half of the population and that it can be the most emotionally and physically challenging time of a woman’s life.
I am now taking hormone replacement therapy which has made a huge difference in minimising the symptoms I was experiencing. There is much distrust of this form of therapy and it is an individual choice over whether it is right for each person but it should certainly be explored as an option for women who are beginning to suffer.
If we truly want half of our workforce to be women, it’s inconceivable that we could ignore this fundamental part of female health.
Conversations must be had, leaders and supervisors must be aware of what their female colleagues could be going through at this time of life so that minor adjustments can be made or at least they feel understood.
Menopause is no more important than any other health issue affecting men or women but it is non-negotiable for women when they reach a certain age. It’s going to happen.
It’s not an embarrassing secret to be kept, it’s not a frustrating issue for supervisors to accommodate, it’s simply human life. Let’s make sure that our workplaces are welcoming and inclusive for women at every stage in their career.