Kilkenny woman, Nicola Wolfe has launched The Menopause Maze, an education and support programme to help women make informed decisions and manage their health and wellbeing from the peri-menopause though to post-menopause.

A qualified nurse and registered nurse tutor, Nicola Wolfe also has professional qualifications in mental health, cognitive behaviour practices and wellbeing coaching. She completed training with the British Menopause Society and the International Menopause Society.

The Menopause Maze programme is delivered to women on a one-to-one basis, in groups, or in the workplace, providing valuable insights and wellbeing solutions for employers and employees.

The course comprises two modules covering physical and mental health symptoms, as well as one-to-one consultations focussed on personal coaching and action-based transition planning for each individual.  There is guidance on working effectively with GPs and other health professionals to get the appropriate support, as well as on helping family, employers and significant others to understand the personal health issues in question.

Nicola Wolfe says she developed The Menopause Maze programme because her own mid-life journey made her aware of how poorly women are educated and prepared for the perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause.  This lack of education disempowers women, as they are not in a position to be proactive and to take steps to protect their own health, she explains.

“I am a nurse and I wasn’t fully aware of the vast and challenging issues that changing hormone levels predispose us to.  Deteriorating brain, heart and bone health can all be part of the process, as well as distressing symptoms from mood changes and memory problems to pain, stiffness, weight gain and night sweats”.

The education and coaching programme provides evidence-based information and practical advice on managing symptoms, including accessible positive-psychology techniques.

Having to wade through so many myths and ill-informed pieces to get to the truth of the menopause is ridiculous, the nurse tutor believes, especially when 50% of the population are affected by the issue.

“How women can get to their late 40s and not have had a talk about menopause is crazy.  And being made to feel that this natural stage of life will ‘pass’, and that symptoms that really impact quality of life should be tolerated, is wholly inadequate”, Nicola Wolfe insists.‍

Insisting they are taken seriously by their doctor can also be an issue for some with menopause symptoms, the nurse explains.  For example, relying on a blood test to show declining hormone levels is unreliable and inconsistent, as levels change considerably while still within normal range.

“Many end up being told they are not perimenopausal, when in fact they are.  Plan a GP’s visit by listing all your symptoms and ideally keeping a diary of your mood and experiences to supplement a medical history”, Wolfe advises.

Working Women

20% of women who go through the transition do not experience challenges or difficulties, but the remaining 80% of women going through perimenopause and menopause can experience moderate to severe challenges, and 10% of women have severe menopausal symptoms to the extent that they have to give up work as a result.

As well as being a loss for the woman herself, so too her employer, her family, and the wider community can ultimately be affected when a woman isn’t properly resourced to cope with her menopause, according to Nicola Wolfe.

“The fact that a woman’s life and career skills can be lost to the workforce, and that her family and friends may also suffer that woman’s pain and frustration, all due to reducing hormone levels, is quite tragic”, she says.‍

In 2019, the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development surveyed 1,409 women experiencing menopause symptoms.  59% said the menopause was having a negative impact in the context of work, 52% said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues, 58% said they experienced more stress, and 65% said they were less able to concentrate.

Furthermore, nearly a third said they had taken sick leave because of symptoms, but only a quarter of those could be honest with their manager about the reason for their absence.

Already co-driector of a specialist health and social care training and consultancy company for over twenty years, Nicola Wolfe identified that many women seek coaching for problems directly linked to their menopause, that they did not recognise as health issues.

“In my professional experience of coaching women, I noticed many have challenges which they do not initially see as being linked to the menopause at all.  But it becomes apparent quite quickly that these problems are in fact related to their stage of life”.

“This lack of clarity is due to inadequate menopause education, compounded by myth and rumour and overheard conversations that do nothing to equip women to deal with the vast and variable symptoms and the very personal experience menopause represents”, she explains.

This stage of life is directly linked with women’s health outcomes going forward into old age, and so it is crucial it is properly managed, Wolfe believes.

“Ask yourself is it enough to make this transition passively, and suffer discomfort and ill health, or should I be proactive and radically self-caring?” she advises.

Women, community groups, employers and others wishing to learn about menopause, or to schedule training or practical coaching and courses, can contact Nicola Wolfe on 0879197744, at nicola@menopausmaze.ie, or online https://www.menopausemaze.ie/.