Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark has opened up about her experience of menopause in a new BBC documentary, An Insider’s Guide to the Menopause. The star has spoken of wanting to break the ‘taboo’ around menopause and its symptoms, which she still experiences. She has described her own hot flushes, saying “imagine if you were put in a box and had heat flung at you and there was nothing you could do about it.”
Wellbeing of Women is one of the few sources of funding for research into menopause and its symptoms. Almost all women go through the natural process of the menopause. When a woman’s menstrual periods stop, her ovaries cease producing eggs and her oestrogen levels gradually decline, which triggers the onset of menopause.
In the UK, 51 is the average age for a woman to reach the menopause and the entire process can last anywhere from 2-10 years. Unfortunately, for many women, the menopause can be a time of great anxiety, distress and physical discomfort due to the various symptoms that can accompany the drop in oestrogen. Hot flushes and night sweats are the main menopausal symptoms and these, together with poor memory, poor concentration and loss of confidence, result in many women feeling anxious and depressed, which can lead to a difficult and problematic time for women, particularly in the workplace.
How Wellbeing of Women is Helping
Wellbeing of Women is currently at the forefront of research into menopause, tackling issues resulting from menopause, such as vaginal dryness and urinary tract infection, which are common in post-menopausal women.
The causes of hot flushing
In 2009 we funded Professor Mary Ann Lumsden, the current Vice President Elect of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, to carry out a project to investigate whether hot flushes occur as result of altered blood vessel function or changes in the brain.
Professor Lumsden made several interesting findings, particularly that those people who experience severe hot flushes may actually have an abnormality in the function of the blood vessels and are more likely to develop heart disease. Professor Lumsden also confirmed the important role of serotonin (the so-called ‘happiness hormone’) in flushing. The team were able to successfully treat it using venlaflaxine, an anti-depressant which offers a potential alternative to HRT as a treatment for hot flushes.
Professor Lumsden, who is currently a Trustee of Wellbeing of Women, recently chaired the development group for the first ever National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline for the diagnosis and management of menopause.
Menopause at work – the development of brief interventions to improve the quality of life for working menopausal women
Wellbeing of Women is currently funding Professor Myra Hunter, Kings College London, and Professor Amanda Griffiths, the University of Nottingham, to develop new methods of treating menopausal symptoms in women.
Professor Hunter has worked extensively on the efficacy of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to manage the symptoms of the menopause, particularly hot flushes and night sweats. This is now being trialled in a number of organisations which has proved the major impact that the menopause can have on a woman’s working life.
The project will support working women affected by adverse menopausal symptoms, and also help managers and employers to support their female staff of menopausal age.
With your support we can break the taboo around menopause and make a real difference to the lives of women. Get in touch and let us know your own experience of menopause and please support our vital research by donating below.