Understanding the links between menopause and autism

Lauren Chiren, founder of Women of a Certain Stage, outlines the links between autism and menopause and calls for more inclusive workplaces.

Scrabble cubes spell out menopause. Plant in the background.


It’s Autism Awareness Month and the latest official statistics show that only around three in 10 working age autistic people are in employment.

Up to 15% of people in the workplace are neurodivergent; it’s important to include this group in conversations around menopause and support. Unfortunately, like most women’s health topics, both menopause and neurodiversity are areas that are woefully underfunded as individual areas.

When it comes to workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), conversations often focus on things like gender, race, and physical disabilities. However, there is an emerging intersection that deserves attention: the impact of menopause on neurodivergent employees.

As the CEO & Founder of Women of a Certain Stage, my journey through menopause was a catalyst for change, not just personally but also professionally. It showed me the profound impact of menopause on my physical and mental health and work life, causing me to leave my job thinking I had early onset dementia.

Neurodiversity and menopause are more connected than you would assume. For clarity, neurodiversity encompasses variations in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions. It includes conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

From what I have seen in my client base, many more of us are neurodivergent than we probably know, as clients I support through menopause often have their first ever diagnosis of ADHD when they become menopausal. Menopause can in many cases exacerbate pre-existing neurodivergent conditions, intensifying symptoms or altering their manifestation.

Emerging research by Hardy and Kovacs in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology highlights the impact menopause can have on neurodivergent conditions; our hormonal fluctuations during menopause can influence neural pathways that are already distinct in individuals with neurodivergent conditions like autism, making things a lot worse for the individual.

For many women with autism, a drop in oestrogen can seriously impact their life, it can worsen symptoms such as brain fog and memory issues. If workplaces aren’t educated about this crossover, this can easily lead to a lack of support for those who may experience intensified symptoms during this life stage, impacting their work performance and well-being.

What can employers do?

Personalised coaching: for neurodivergent individuals navigating menopause, helping them develop strategies to manage symptoms and maintain productivity can be extremely helpful. Ongoing education can raise awareness among all staff about the challenges of menopause and neurodiversity, fostering a culture of empathy and support.

Flexible work arrangements: quiet spaces, and access to menopause-friendly health resources can really help. It also means creating a culture where employees feel comfortable being open and discussing their challenges without fear of stigma or discrimination.

My story

My own experience with menopause was a wake-up call. Despite being at the peak of my career, I found myself unprepared for the impact of menopause on my well-being and work life. This personal journey, coupled with plenty more stories from other women made me realise the urgent need for workplaces to adapt and become truly inclusive.

One of my team members, a high performing Project Manager with ASD shared how her menopause transition led to heightened sensory sensitivities, making the open-plan office environment nearly unbearable.

Another, with ADHD, described how the exacerbation of her symptoms during menopause made it increasingly difficult to focus and meet deadlines, without the time and space to work independently.

These stories are not isolated incidents but a reflection of a broader issue that demands attention. Understanding the crossover between menopause and neurodiversity is crucial for creating an inclusive workplace. By recognising the unique challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals during menopause and adapting DE&I policies accordingly, we can ensure that all employees have the support they need to thrive. As we continue to navigate our own paths through menopause and beyond, let us commit to fostering an environment where diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated.

*Lauren Chiren is a menopause trainer, keynote speaker and founder of Women of a Certain Stage.

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