Inspirational Woman: Kathy Abernethy | Director of Menopause Services, Peppy

Kathy Abernethy

Born in London, Kathy Abernethy led an award winning NHS menopause service, and was a founding member of the British Menopause Society (BMS) and is author of two books on the subject, including Menopause: The One-Stop Guide, which was highly commended in the recent BMA Awards

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Definitely not. In fact, I chose my first role in this area because, at the time, the hours suited me. But I really enjoyed it, and saw that I could make a real positive change to someone’s life. This was back in the 1980s when the menopause was not a subject anyone talked about. So it’s rewarding to see how that has changed.

What is the biggest challenge you faced?                              

I went into nursing via what was the then ‘traditional’ route. So I was one of the first nurse practitioners in this field. Until then there was a feeling that menopause was the domain of doctors only. There may have initially been more than a touch of tokenism in my appointment to the BMS, but not for long.   

What do you think is your most important achievement to date?

Outside work that has to be my family and our three children. Professionally, bringing effective support to people who really need it. Over the years we’ve had to overcome a lot of ‘traditional’ approaches to the treatment of the menopause. Being able to break out of that, not least with organisations like Peppy, and have a huge impact in a short space of time, has been fantastic. 

Why is the menopause such a taboo subject and how can we change that?

Thankfully, I don’t think it is anymore. It definitely was 30 years ago, but that has now changed radically, especially in the last five years. The conversation has started. What we now need to do is keep it going.

What advice do you have for anyone going through the menopause?

Know your options and do all the research you can. Seek help if needed, but the more prepared you are the better.  

How can workplaces and employers better support staff going through the menopause?

Start a conversation, and if you’ve already started that with your employees keep it going. It should be something we can all talk about. Also provide personalised support to help women get their lives back to normal. Everyone is going to have different reactions, so any support has to be unique to that individual. With platforms like Peppy and the technology we have today, and experienced nurse practitioners, that’s not difficult to do.   

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Enjoy where you are right now. But having said that, take up every new opportunity, no matter how small it might seem. What might at first seem to be small often opens up into something much bigger. For me Peppy was one such small opportunity, in the middle of many, but it has allowed me to play a part in making some enormous changes for so many people. 

What do you think is your next big challenge?

Making sure that personalised menopause support becomes the mainstream option. Half of the population will go through the menopause, and a significant number will face some really challenging symptoms. Ensuring every one of them has the right support to allow them to live their lives to the full is a challenge we have to meet. 

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