Women doctors experiencing the menopause have told a BMA survey about the physical and mental impact it is having on their lives, and for some it’s meant a change to their working lives.
A report, based on the survey and published today, also highlights a lack of support for many and a huge reluctance to discuss the problem with mangers and colleagues.
Symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, loss of confidence and debilitating hot flushes were cited by 90 per cent of doctors as effecting their ability to work – with 38 per cent saying the impact was ‘significant’.
Two thousand1 doctors responded to the survey, which was carried out before the pandemic. More than a third told how they wanted to make changes to their working lives as a result of menopause but couldn’t and almost half said they wanted to discuss the topic with their manager but did not feel comfortable.
Typical responses to survey from doctors included:
- 'There are very few older women left at my senior level in my traditional profession'.
- 'If I mentioned my perimenopausal symptoms, I would be stigmatised and disrespected as someone who was no longer rational or capable I suffer attacks of low confidence which makes me question my worth and ability to do my job'.
- 'When coupled with the symptoms, I have often felt like giving up.We would need a change in culture, not just in the NHS, but nationally, to support all working women during this time'.
The BMA is calling for employers to take a pro-active approach to the topic of menopause, to make is easier to talk about and to make sure staff know signposting to support is available. The Association wants more to be done to ease menopausal symptoms such as enabling doctors to work flexibly, adjusting the workplace and providing support for mental health and wellbeing.
Dr Helena McKeown, BMA Representative Body Chair, said:
“Menopause is still a taboo subject in many workplaces and that includes the medical profession. Many women feel uncomfortable discussing their needs with their managers. The survey clearly shows that this is a significant problem within the medical profession. Doctors are aware of these issues for their patients, so it’s time to extend this awareness to an improved, more sympathetic working for doctors experiencing this themselves.”
“We need to ensure that we retain women doctors who are a crucial part of the workforce. Simple steps taken now to help women experiencing the menopause now and for those in the future, will help to retain them and ensure less lost working days because of menopausal symptoms.”
Professor Neena Modi, President of The Medical Women’s Federation said:
“We are pleased that the BMA has brought issues around the menopause into the open. The menopause affects more than half of the population, many to debilitating extent. There are also wider impacts on all of society because of the huge importance of women to a well-functioning workforce. We hope this report will help employers provide appropriate support for their employees and end the taboos around a normal physiological process.”
Notes to editors
The key findings from the survey are:
- 93% of survey respondents had experienced symptoms as a result of the menopause, with 65% experiencing both physical and mental symptoms.
- 90% said that these symptoms had impacted their working lives, with 38% saying that the impact was significant.
- 36% of respondents had made changes to their working lives as a result of menopause and 9% intended to make changes.
- 38% wanted to make changes to their working lives as a result of menopause but said they were not able to.
- Only 16% had discussed their menopause symptoms with their manager and 47% wanted to but did not feel comfortable doing so.