The cost of menopause for working women

Although menopause is a completely normal and inevitable life cycle, it is also a subject that is talked about and little known. There are almost no figures in Chile, for example, on the labor and economic cost it has for women who work for pay and who are considered directly affected in their performance and well-being by the symptoms and physical changes they experience during this stage.

A study recently published by Mayo Clinic quantified the cost for women in the United States: US DOLLARS$ 1.8 billion working hours lost per year not to mention the medical costs associated with this step.

Of the women surveyed, 13% had an adverse outcome at work due to menopausal symptoms and 11% missed work due to these conditions. According to the researchers, these results highlight the need for companies and institutions to have policies so that the working environment for women at this stage is more favorable.

Paula Sperry, a UC Christus gynecologist and menopause and climacteric expert, says symptoms associated with menopause they are generally more intense during the climacteric phase or transition to menopause, in the years preceding the definitive cessation of menstruation for one year.

“The most common symptoms are the typical hot flashes, night sweats, some women wake up sweating at night. It also affects sleep, causes insomnia, and they may experience joint pain,” says Sperry.

In this transition phase, he explains, when the cycles become more irregular, what is called metrorrhagia can happen . “When cycles are not monthly, a buildup in the endometrium is caused and there is heavy bleeding. This can also be a complication for labor,” he says.

Additionally, women may experience hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness, among other symptoms.

An expensive taboo

Sperry says there are no current figures on female absenteeism due to these symptoms, nor is it an issue considered within companies. This silence makes the situation worse.

“Many times they tell me that they feel uncomfortable. Women in management and in business meetings, for example, have to deal with hot flashes. They turn red and sweat, it’s great uncomfortable. They are ashamed to see that they are going through this because socially menopause continues to be a rarely discussed and taboo topic” Sperry said.

Lack of estrogen, common in people going through this period, can lead to a decrease in short-term memory. “Secondly, women have less ability to retain information and this greatly affects those who work,” says Sperry.

Besides, stress can be a trigger for the intensification of these discomforts. “In a work environment where there is stress and pressure, the symptoms are much more intense,” he says.

Lack of policies

Menopause can occur between the ages of 45 and 55, says Sperry, but The average age in Chile is 50 years old , all significant working ages for women. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics for the year 2022, the average age of women working for pay in the country is around 40 years old.

Marcela Perticará, director of the Department of Economics and Business at Diego Portales University, assures that this question is not addressed at the level of companies or institutions. ” There is no specific treatment. We talk about gaps between men and women but not gaps linked to particular events, it’s super invisible,” he said.

For the academic, it is a question that should have more urgency since many women who go through this stage “return from the fertile stage”. “In your thirties, you are confronted with the work-family balance, at the end of that comes this other shock which a priori can put you at a disadvantage compared to your male peers”, he says.

Especially now that women have more visible and active participation in the workplace, there should be space to manifest those symptoms that can be seen as weakness, he explains.

Dr Sperry assures that the lack of information and transparency is directly linked to the the invisibility that menopause in general has in our society . “People don’t talk about it, so it also happens a lot that women don’t consult because they don’t know that the symptoms can be managed. If they are candidates for hormone therapies, they can improve quality of life, reduce bothersome symptoms,” he says.

This step it can be “worn in an accompanied way and in a much better way without affecting their personal and professional life,” he concludes.

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Source: Latercera

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