We’ve got to talk about the Menopause

I appreciate that to most of you readers I am not your age, your gender or in your field of work, but many of you are and the rest of you will be working with or have clients who are!

My wonderful generation was when male and female admissions into vet school was 50:50, so thank you very much to my predecessors who enabled this.

However, to work in mixed or farm animal practices was still a novelty. I was only the second female assistant in my traditional 2 vet mixed practice, and from what I heard, the first had been a disaster, not due to her gender, but this hadn’t helped!

So back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we had many challenges, be it balancing supporting your partners career with your own, being supermum to the children (as we were the generation that wanted to have it all, so were not allowed to compromise) to finding toilets in rural Ayrshire at certain times of the month.

We survived (most of us) and have now arrived at the other end of our careers.

Then this happens…. Had we not struggled enough? The MENOPAUSE!!!! Where did this come from?

The symptoms can be mild and transient, or it can be hell. There is no way you can guess how yours will be either. My Mum and sister had very mild symptoms. What was worse, is nobody really talked about it.

Menopause is joked about and we ridicule ourselves too. But it was a significant factor in my stopping clinical work. It’s not nice having visible sweats, several an hour, where your body literally becomes hot and painful from your toes to your head, followed by being chilled as you’re so sweaty. Your concentration vanishes, panic attacks, mood swings (you think PMS is bad….), the exhaustion from restless sleep with more sweats. 24/7 it affected me and still does, though thankfully to a lesser extent now, but we are 7 years on.

The veterinary profession is, as we know, short in personnel and we are losing too many women like myself. We are not selling up to sail away in our yachts just for the fun of it, but we are leaving because for many of us, we are struggling, physically and mentally with the menopause. We are the potential leaders of the profession and it’s the same in other industries too.

We are the generation that struggled on, because we felt so lucky to have got to vet school in what had been such a male dominated profession, so lucky to have a career and a family, lucky to be able to become a partner or set up our own business. It was not in our nature to let ‘female biological issues’ get in the way, we had to be the same as the guys.

I am not moaning, just stating facts. This is why I’m speaking up now.

Does your practice have a menopause protocol to enable staff to cope more easily? Do you even talk about it? Do you assume because the more mature staff have empty nests their lives are easier? Your male colleagues may be struggling too, not sure how to broach the topic and support their work and life partners.

There are many on-line sites that can help you format a protocol, but how about when you next sit down with a work colleague, you simply start the conversation?

March 2020

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