People

Published: October 18, 2021 | Updated: October 19, 2021

World Menopause Day: Nicola helps break the taboo and specialist clinic marks 25th birthday

Nicola Green: “I feel I’m making a real difference to the lives of many women.”
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Nicola Green was 32 when she first contacted her GP.

The mother of two felt constantly exhausted.

It was to be another three years before she was officially diagnosed – with a premature menopause.

Over the coming six years the exhaustion was joined by all the classic symptoms of the menopause.

Sleep deprivation, night sweats, hot flushes, a loss of confidence…the list went on.

Nicola. a mother of two, said: “I remember a conversation with my Mum when I was 23.

“She had an early menopause in her early 40s.

“I believed I knew what was happening but I was never sure.

“The symptoms came in waves and differed each time.

“It was another three years – when I was 35 – before I was officially diagnosed with premature menopause.

“At the age of 38, I decided to start HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

“At this stage, medically, it was to prevent osteoporosis in later life but for me, personally, it was to try and reduce my symptoms.

“I had reached the point where I needed to do something.

“After starting HRT I could see clearly again for the first time in a long time.

“It enabled me to turn my life around and back to that of a 38-year-old.

“But I spent five years struggling with symptoms.

“All whilst being married, bringing up a young family, having a career, exercising and all the other pressures of today’s life.

“No one would have ever looked at me and thought I was menopausal.

“Like many women, I suffered in silence.”

In 2019, and after a 20-year legal career, Nicola became a self-employed consultant, specialising in the menopause.

The ‘lightbulb moment’ came after the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) issued guidance on managing the menopause at work.

Nicola, who’s now 42 and lives in North Dorset, said: “I felt that I could use my experiences to widen knowledge and understanding of something that is still regarded as a taboo subject.

“Perhaps not surprisingly, in view of my background, law firms were among the first to use my services, but I built up my clients quickly in other sectors.

“Now they’re not just in Dorset but across the country.”

Nicola provides practical workshops and presentations on the menopause for individuals and managers in the workplace.

She also offers community presentations and one-to-one menopause coaching and support.

Nicola said: “My passion is to empower people with knowledge, support and understanding on a topic many of us know little about; to ensure amazing women are retained in the workplace.

“I provide a complete and honest account of my journey and it’s often not what people expect.

“My varied presentations and training sessions help eradicate the taboo subject of menopause from the workplace and remove the stigma around the perceived age of a menopausal woman.

“I have met so many women who have been misdiagnosed due to their lack of knowledge and understanding.

“My presentations help prevent this from being the case for future generations.

“We were taught about puberty and reproduction at school.

“But nobody educated us on menopause or the impact it can have on an individual and those closest to them.”

To break the stigma associated with the menopause, the CIPD recommends that employers educate and train line managers.

The aim is to ensure they are knowledgeable and confident to have sensitive conversations with staff about their symptoms and any adjustments that might be needed.

Actions to help women going through the menopause, which is normally experienced between the ages of 45 and 55 – the average age is around 52 – include:

  • Giving women a later start time if their sleep pattern is disturbed.
  • Providing a desk fan to help with hot flushes
  • Making sure women can take regular comfort breaks and allowing them to adapt their uniform to improve comfort levels

More than two years after launching her consultancy, Nicola believes progress is being made.

She said: “More and more enlightened employers are becoming involved and taking action.

“We’re slowly breaking the taboo,

“There is still much to do but the key is education and the message is definitely getting through.

“My work is for all ages and genders.

“I have received amazing feedback from both women and men.

“It’s the most empowering job I’ve ever done and is so rewarding.

“I feel I’m making a real difference to the lives of many women.”

+++

Poole Hospital celebrates 25 years of specialist menopause service

“It’s brilliant that more women now have the confidence to speak up about the menopause and how it has affected them.”

So says Tim Hillard, consultant gynaecologist and menopause specialist, looking back on 25 years of Poole Hospital’s specialist menopause clinic.

The clinic was one of the first of its kind outside of London and remains the biggest menopause clinic in the south west.

“We are proud we have been offering this service for so long as while primary care provides support for many women there has always been a need for specialist care for the more complex problems,” said Tim.

One in three women experience significant health problems associated with the symptoms of menopause.

Amanda Hillard, Menopause Nurse Specialist, pictured with Tim, said: “Dealing with menopausal symptoms can have a major impact on a woman’s quality of life, their ability to balance work and family, and can lead to feelings of distress and an inability to cope.

“I know of women who have had to leave their jobs as they have felt unable to cope or discuss the severity of their menopause symptoms with their employer”.

The team at the specialist menopause clinic treat women who are experiencing debilitating menopausal symptoms that the standard treatments such as HRT are not alleviating.

They also help patients experiencing early menopause, those with more complex medical problems and those who cannot necessarily take HRT such as women who have had breast cancer.

Since being established 25 years ago the team has moved from St Mary’s Maternity Hospital to the Harbourside Gynaecology Unit and expanded to include consultant Miss Elizabeth Stephenson.

The service is now busier than ever, with 16 menopause clinics running every month.

Not only do the team treat menopause, but the clinic is the principal regional training centre for Wessex providing education to other healthcare professionals including practice nurses, GPs and trainee gynaecologists.

Alongside educating healthcare professionals Amanda emphasises the importance of wider education on menopause in the community:

She said: “We work exceptionally hard to educate women so that when menopause happens, they know what to expect and where they can get support.

“But it’s not just women who are close to the expected age of menopause that need to be educated, it is younger women, their partners, employers and their teams of staff.”

Tim advises women to speak up and seek advice if they have any concerns around the menopause.

He said: “I would advise any woman who is experiencing problems around the menopause, no matter what stage of life they are at, to seek help and advice.

“Quite often symptoms can be alleviated through simple changes such as dietary and lifestyle alterations but there are also a variety of treatment options available if needed.”

In the first instance women who need support with menopause can seek advice through their GP and practice nurses, but if they are having further difficulties a referral can be made to the menopause clinic.

General menopause advice can also be found at womens-health-concern.org.uk and menopausematters.co.uk