The menopause in 2023 – how far have we come?
As the year ends, we look back at some of the headway that’s been made
Here at balance, we’re always striving for more women to have equal access to good-quality menopause healthcare. There’s still a lot to do and we have ambitious plans but it’s also important to recognise that progress has been made. Each little win counts, and together they form a base we can build upon, so let’s look back at some of the positive steps made during 2023…
More businesses offered their employees support
In 2018, just 10% of employers offered some form of menopausal support to their staff . In 2023 that rose to over half (53%), according to research by Aviva . In addition, the survey found that 81% of employers thought that they would do well in supporting employees with menopausal symptoms at work.
Businesses that haven’t supported staff have been challenged
Two landmark court cases took place this year. In September 2023, Karen Farquharson took her employer to a tribunal case and successfully sued for harassment and unfair dismissal – she had suffered debilitating menopausal symptoms, which her boss dismissed as ‘excuses’ and told her to ‘just get on with it’. She was awarded a £37,000 payout.
In October 2023 social worker Maria Rooney initiated legal action against her employer Leicester City Council, after alleging she was dismissed due to discrimination over suffering menopause symptoms. The case made legal history as it’s the first tribunal case to consider menopausal symptoms as a disability. The outcome is yet to be determined.
Groundbreaking research in progress
This year Newson Health carried out an audit of its patient data – of 1,200 peri- and postmenopausal women aged 45 and over who had added testosterone to their existing treatment regimen for at least four months. It found that testosterone significantly improved mood-related symptoms such as anxiety and irritability, as well as concentration and memory.
More studies are required, and earlier this year the National Institute of Health Research called for women to take part in its research on the benefits and risks of testosterone on women in menopause. The aim is to increase the evidence base for testosterone as a treatment for symptoms beyond altered sexual function .
The Government appointed a menopause champion
In March, Helen Tomlinson was named the Government’s DWP Menopause Employment Champion. By starting conversations with businesses and offering a forum for organisations to share experiences and expertise, the aim is to improve workplace support for women .
Hot flushes appeared live on TV
It’s rare to see hot flushes on TV, unless they’re part of a joke but this year actor and TV host Drew Barrymore experienced her first one on live TV. Rather than trying to cover it up, Drew, who was interviewing Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler at the time, removed her blazer, fanned herself and said ‘For the first time, I think I’m having my first hot flash.’ Her fellow celebs then touched her hands to feel ‘her inner heat’.
Similarly, Imogen Crump, a journalist who was appearing on ABC News in Australia, experienced a hot flush live while broadcasting. She openly shared what she was experiencing and footage of the clip went viral, helping to open up more conversations about the menopause.
Confidence in the Menopause course was relaunched
In September, Newson Health relaunched its Confidence in the Menopause online education course. The original course was downloaded by 30,000 healthcare professionals and others worldwide. The updated version offers the latest, evidence-based information to help support all those going through the menopause. The course is accessible to everyone, whether or not you work in healthcare, and money raised through the course is used to further hormone health education and research. So far the revamped course has hit 2,000 downloads.
HRT became more affordable
The Government introduced the new HRT prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) on 1 April, which reduced prescription costs for HRT items in England to a total of £19.30 per year. The certificate can be used against a list of eligible HRT items. All NHS prescriptions are available free of charge in the rest of the UK.
More women’s health hubs were announced
An announcement was made this year that the Government would be rolling out women’s health hubs across England, in order to provide services for areas of care including the menopause. The investment of £25million over the next two issues is to help facilitate the hubs.
More information at our fingertips
The NHS website got a spruce up in July with the launch of a women’s health hub, which includes content on the menopause and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Barriers were broken down
Was 2023 the year the menopause truly became mainstream? On TV, Bridget Christie’s comedy-drama The Change (on Channel 4), about a woman navigating midlife, was lauded for its accurate portrayal of the menopause. On stage, Menopause the Musical 2: Cruising through Menopause toured the UK but smaller plays also emerged. One, Stand by Your Fan, was just a single performance in July by a community cast but it was filmed and shown with a discussion afterwards.
We were spoilt for choice with books, not least from balance founder, GP and menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson who released The Definitive Guide to the Perimenopause & Menopause. Dr Nighat Arif released her book The Knowledge: Your guide to female health – from menstruation to the menopause in August, while Dr Mary Ryan released It’s Probably Your Hormones: From Appetite to Sleep, Periods to Sex Drive, Balance Your Hormones to Unlock Better Health. Inspiration came from Susan Saunders’ The Power Decade: How to Thrive After Menopause, questions were answered with FAQs on Menopause by Julie Robinson and Louise Minchin and model and presenter Lisa Snowdon released Just Getting Started, proving there was something for everyone.
We got together and talked
All across the UK, more and more women got together to talk all things menopause, be that in menopause cafes or at exercise classes or festivals. Dr Louise Newson attended and spoke to women at lifestyle festival Postcards from Midlife, gave a talk at CarFest. Newson Health also had a menopause garden at Gardener’s World Live in June – not only did the tranquil design win Platinum and Best Show Garden, it gave women a space to sit and reflect about their wellbeing.
- Beck V., Brewis J., Davies A. (2020) ‘The remains of the taboo: experiences, attitudes, and knowledge about menopause in the workplace’, Climacteric, 23(2)pp.158–164. 66165.pdf (open.ac.uk)