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The menopause can cause a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms that can last for several years.  The majority of menopausal women experience symptoms, but everyone is different.  Symptoms can fluctuate and be felt to varying degrees.  Experiencing any of the typical symptoms can pose a challenge for women as they go about their daily lives, including at work.

Many women suffer symptoms during the menopause that cause them difficulty, embarrassment and frustration.  By finding out more about the menopause and being aware of the changes happening to you, you can apply self-help strategies or seek medical advice by speaking to your GP.  

 Some of the most typical symptoms of the menopause include:

·         Hot flushes (brief and sudden surges of heat usually felt in the face, neck and chest)

·         Sleep disturbance that can make people feel tired and irritable

·         Night sweats (hot flushes that happen during the night)

·         Irregular periods and/or periods can become light or heavy

·         Psychological issues such as mood disturbances, anxiety and/or depression,
          memory loss, panic attacks, loss of confidence and reduced concentration

·         Muscle and joint stiffness, aches and pains

·         Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) including cystitis

·         Headaches

·         Sexual problems – decreased libido / vaginal dryness / relationship difficulties

·         Weight gain

·         Palpitations (heartbeats that become more noticeable)

·         Skin changes (dryness, acne, general itchiness)

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Limited scientific research has been undertaken to consider the effect and safety of taking supplements or other alternative therapy, however, they have become popular with women and can help with some troublesome symptoms.

  • Popular herbal products include: Black cohosh, red clover Dong quai, Evening Primrose Oil, Soy, but you must check with your doctor for advice before taking any of these, as there are interactions with medications such as blood thinners e.g. warfarin, psychiatric medications and other medications.

  • Some of the treatments that women have reported as being helpful are: acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbal treatments, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, yoga, reflexology, tai chi and guided breathing.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

  • This is the most widely used and most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms.

  • It can be taken by pill, through a vaginal cream or gel or via a patch and is a simple way of replacing the hormone oestrogen that is lost during the menopause.

  • HRT aims to reduce symptoms such as hot flushes, osteoporosis, vaginal dryness, sleep and mood disturbances. Some women do experience side effects when taking it for the first time such as breast tenderness, leg cramps, nausea, bloatedness. If these haven’t resolved after a few months, it may be necessary to try another type, dosage or route of HRT.

  • See your GP for advice if you think HRT may help you.

What can you do to help yourself?

Talk about your symptoms

You may find it helpful talking about your symptoms with others, especially those also experiencing symptoms. It often helps to find out that you are not alone. If your symptoms are affecting your day-to-day life you are encouraged to discuss your needs with your manager.

They may not realise that you require some assistance and if they don’t know much about it you can point them and colleagues to this site for more information. Women are being encouraged to raise awareness at work to reduce the stigma of the menopause.

Hot flushes

Common triggers are alcohol, caffeine, hot and spicy foods, stress, tight clothing, cigarette smoke, bending over. Try and avoid these triggers, especially before meetings or presentations:- 

  • If you feel a hot flush coming on at work, try sipping ice water. ​

  • Avoid wearing wool, silk and most synthetic fabrics. These materials trap heat and can increase body temperature. Clothes made of cotton, linen or rayon breathe better, release heat and help to keep you cooler. Try to wear layers, that way you can remove layers to cool yourself down and can then put back on if you have a cold chill following the hot flush.  At night, wear cotton night clothes.

  • Consider asking your line manager for a small fan to place on your desk at work.

  • Eating hot foods increase body temperature and can exacerbate hot flushes.

  • Try eating salads and cold foods at work.

  • Try not to rush around, give yourself plenty of time to get to work and to meetings. This will help keep your body temperature stable and reduce the frequency of a hot flush.


Night sweats can often lead to insomnia and not getting a restful night’s sleep. When you are working this can be difficult especially if it happens regularly.  This may result in you feeling fatigued at work and not being able to concentrate fully.  

  • Make sure your room is dark, quiet and safe and try to keep it as cool as possible.  

  • Don’t drink alcohol and smoke tobacco before sleeping.   

  • Keep a face flannel wrapped in an ice block in a container near your bed so you can cool yourself quickly.   

  • Relaxation and meditation can be helpful, especially yoga and shiatsu.  

  • If you are really troubled by insomnia, then HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can be considered and should be discussed with your GP

Coping with Memory Loss

The brain contains oestrogen receptors responsive to the oestrogen hormone.  When levels of oestrogen hormones drop, you can suffer unexpected lapses in memory.  These lapses in memory should not last.   Once you are through the menopause, you should be able to recall information more effectively again.

There are certain self-help strategies one can do to help memory recall:

  • Drink plenty of water – water hydrates the body and brain keeping them healthy

  • Exercise – regular exercise will help to keep a rich blood flow around the brain

  • Mind games – such as suduko and crosswords help to keep the brain active

  • Eat a well balanced diet including fish, soy products, fruit and vegetables.

  • Vitamin B complex & Omega 3 fish oils  can aid memory function

  • Write lists or use your phone and computer to help you remember things

  • Sleep well at night & relax – both these helps to improve mental function and concentration

Coping with anxiety

Menopause anxiety is very common and often one of the trickiest symptom to cope with during the menopause.  Many women suddenly feel unable to deal with situations that were never a problem before and can become overwhelmed by simple aspects of day to day living and working.  This build-up of anxiety can lead to feelings of becoming mentally unwell.

  • To help alleviate this pressure, try to vent the anxiety – talk to friends, develop an exercise plan and focus on breathing.  

  • When you feel overwhelmed, take a few minutes to calm your breathing. Breathe in for the count of 7, and breathe out counting to 11.   After a few deep relaxing breaths, your body and mind will hopefully slow down and your thoughts become much clearer.  

  • Develop “me-time”, take time out for yourself to relax.  

  • Consider relaxation techniques such as mindfulness. Other potentially helpful techniques are cognitive behavioural therapy and meditation.  These can all help to reduce the impact of anxiety and a range of symptoms attributed to the menopause.  

  • Try cutting back on caffeine to see if that triggers your anxiety or nervousness.  

  • Consider your alcohol intake.  Alcohol is a depressant and we can often use it as a crutch to help reduce feelings of anxiety, thereby exacerbating the issue.  

  • Try to keep stress to a minimum as it can make symptoms worse.  Consider completing the stress risk assessment if experiencing difficulties at work. 

Coping with Mood Swings

This is one of the most commonly experienced symptom of the menopause.  As the oestrogen levels decline so does the level of serotonin and mood changes can be fairly sudden and dramatic. Often women feel that they are on an emotional pendulum; up one minute and down the next.

Most women report reacting to things in a far stronger way than the situation merits, with irritability and less tolerance and patience than normal.  This is often very frustrating and you can feel as though you are out of control.  It can seem to the woman as though no-one understands what she is going through.  

This can be difficult for women in the workplace and lifestyle changes should be considered such as weight reduction, smoking cessation and exercise.

Eat a healthy diet

The fall in oestrogen levels can increase the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, so focus on a low saturated fat and low salt diet to help reduce blood pressure, and a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones.  

A healthy diet will also help with weight gain.

Stop smoking

Smoking has been linked to early menopause and can trigger hot flushes.


The University has a confidential staff counselling service, details are in the University Support Services section. 

It is important to maintain a perspective and to maintain a sense of positive wellbeing.  Some women see it as a new chapter in their lives; an opportunity to develop new interests and get fit and healthy.

For others, getting through the menopause is not always easy, but by communication, sharing of information and experiences with other women, colleagues and health professionals, a woman can feel supported and better informed as she passes through this phase of her life.