Maria - Interview 45

Age at interview: 43

Brief outline: Maria's menopausal symptoms started two years ago with severe hot flushes, sweats, scant periods and 'mad moments'. A recent contraceptive implant has led to heavy bleeding. Men at work laugh and joke about the menopause but have little understanding.

Background: Maria is a retail assistant. She is divorced with three children. She started the menopause at age 41. Ethnic background/nationality' British Afro-European.

Audio & video

Like her mother, Maria’s menopause started in her early forties. ‘Unbelievable’ hot flushes and sweats have left her feeling dizzy and faint, and ‘dripping from head to toe’. She describes how the worst sweats tend to happen in the morning ‘after I’ve got up, had a wash, shower, got myself dressed’. At night the sweats wake her up and she has difficulty going back to sleep. At work she finds herself taking her fleece on and off and fanning herself to try to relieve her symptoms. She wonders whether the sugar in the chocolates she eats might trigger off the sweats.

Although Maria’s periods had almost stopped, a recent contraceptive implant in her arm has caused heavy and erratic bleeding. This has led to a number of accidents at work when her period has come ‘out of the blue’. Feeling drained and ‘forever yawning and tired’, she plans to see her doctor soon to discuss other options. Despite her symptoms, Maria is adamant that she will not go on HRT as her mum and friends have had bad experiences while taking it.

Maria’s job on the checkout makes her symptoms very public. She describes how hard it is to leave the checkout to sort herself out when her period starts unexpectedly. Her forgetfulness sometimes means she gets the total wrong when serving customers, ‘the total’s fifteen pounds but I might say ten or say the numbers backwards’. Yet while she may laugh and joke about her hot flushes and forgetfulness with colleagues and customers, she describes how deep down ‘you’re upset, you’re sad, you’re emotional because it’s happening in a public place’. She suggests the need for ‘a quiet room where women can potter off to deal with what they’re going through’.

Since Maria and another colleague agreed to take part in this research, the menopause has become a more open topic of conversation at work, with women more willing to share their experiences. Maria believes that male colleagues need to be more considerate and aware of the impact of the menopause on women’s lives, ‘They joke, joke, joke, joke. Whatever joke they can think of they’ll say it and I don’t know if it’s because they don’t understand or if it’s because they just they don’t care’.

Maria has celebrated this stage in her life by cutting her hair, going ‘blonde at the front’ and updating her clothes. Despite putting on two stone in recent years, particularly around the midriff, she is determined to look and feel young.

Maria was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in November 2009.


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