Nine in ten women were never educated about the menopause
26 April 2023
More than 90% of postmenopausal women were never taught about the menopause at school and over 60% only started looking for information about it once their symptoms had started, finds a new UCL-led study.
In the study, published in Post Reproductive Health, researchers collected data from 829 postmenopausal women through an online survey in May 2021.
They found that 49% of participants did not feel informed about the menopause and 62.7% had found it either difficult or very difficult – with women describing their experiences as a “nightmare” and “awful”.
Many women also lamented not knowing what to expect, with many citing night sweats and hot flushes as the only symptoms they had been aware of prior to starting the menopause.
Now participants are calling for better education, knowledge and understanding of symptoms, alongside easier access to treatment and improved feelings and attitudes towards the menopause.
Professor Joyce Harper (UCL EGA Institute of Women’s Health) said: “This study is important as it provides insight into the lived experiences of postmenopausal women, which is a scarce area of research.
“The data shows that women have a lack of education about this key life stage. Together with a reported lack of education from their healthcare professionals, women may be left undiagnosed and unsupported.
“We need to ensure that all health professionals have menopause training so they can give women information on managing their symptoms and well-being. And most importantly, we should give women hope that life postmenopause can be a fruitful and exciting time.”
According to the NHS, the menopause is when a woman’s periods stop due to lower hormone levels. This usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
It can cause symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes and irregular periods. And consequently, it can heavily impact both a woman’s home and working life.
The number of women aged 45 and older in the UK is on an upwards trajectory and it is estimated that there are currently around 13 million perimenopausal or menopausal women in the UK, equating to around one-third of the entire female population.
However, a majority of women only started looking for information once their symptoms had started, with nearly 60% saying they got their information from sources other than health professionals (51.1%) and official websites (50.5%).
Meanwhile, many also turned to social media (33.1%) and friends (49.8%) for advice.
In 2019, the Department for Education made it mandatory for menopause education to be included in schools and researchers hope that the findings of this survey will help explore the issue and help deliver this education effectively.
As a survey, the study may be limited or biased because it is reliant on respondents to complete the survey and people with a negative experience may be more likely to do so.
Another limitation is that the survey was only promoted on social media, so only women who had access to social media could participate.
- Research in Post Reproductive Health
- Professor Joyce Harper's academic profile
- UCL EGA Institute for Women's Health
- UCL Population Health Sciences
- The British Menopause Society
- Credit: TatyanaGl on iStock
E: p.danby [at] ucl.ac.uk