Menopause: Cognition and mood

Last month we wrote about a campaign to reduce the stresses which health practitioners encounter on a daily basis. In our article we highlighted a few coping strategies suggested by the BMA. And we looked at how even simple administration changes such as sending out appointment reminders by SMS text or taking credit card details at the time of booking could help to reduce the number of missed appointments; a potential source of stress for practitioners and patients alike.

There is another reason why something as simple as SMS text reminders could make a marked difference to some individuals; the menopause. Whilst every individual’s experience of the menopause is personal to them, cognitive difficulties are relatively common. So much so that research conducted for World Menopause Day on 18th October by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that nearly two thirds of women who were experiencing menopause symptoms found they were less able to concentrate. No wonder therefore that the theme for the 2022 day is ‘cognition and mood.’

A paper released by the International Menopause Society highlighted some of the cognitive difficulties experienced by those transitioning menopause including disturbances in daily life, trouble concentrating, and forgetting appointments and events. With that in mind, even something as simple as SMS text reminders can make it easier for individuals to manage their daily lives without missing out on important health checks. From this writer’s personal experience, another source of stress is the fear that appointments have been written down incorrectly. This has led to a need to phone the health practitioner to double check, something which could have been avoided had SMS texts been issued.

This leads us on to another important issue, the effect which the menopause could have not just to patients but also to those working within health practices. The CIPD research mentioned above also revealed that sixty percent of those surveyed found that menopause symptoms had a negative impact on their work. When everyday actions can seem stressful, the more that processes can be automated the better. For example, digitising patient records might seem like a simple solution. But being able to retrieve information at the touch of a button rather than searching through paper files can help to relieve stress; particularly if there is a concern that ‘brain fog’ might have led to mis-filed information. Solutions such as these may go some way  towards helping the more than 50% of people who reported increased stress levels during the menopause.

Finally, it is important to be clear that every individual’s journey will be personal to them and that symptoms may come and go over time. The effect on friends, family, and colleagues cannot be underestimated. As the NHS employer’s website commented: “Menopause is not just a gender or age issue; it is an organisational issue.  It can impact on colleagues both directly or indirectly. Awareness on this topic is fundamental and reducing the stigma attached to it is vital so that more people will talk openly about it so it can begin to be normalised and people can get the support they need.”