No one prepares women for the realities of menopause, actress Judy Greer says at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Conference in Marina Del Rey, Calif. this week.
“When you’re a woman, and you either are done having kids or you decide you don’t want to have kids, it’s like ‘good luck,’” Greer said on a panel about menopause education and awareness.
Aging women lack education and available resources around the potential onslaught of symptoms associated with menopause, which 1.3 million women in the U.S. each year begin to experience at the average age of 51. Symptoms like brain fog, hot flashes, and mood swings—to name just a few—can make women feel like there is something wrong with them.
Greer became a founding partner at Wile, a menopause-focused company whose products are for women in their 40s and 50s.
“I feel like so much of the promotion about aging, aging gracefully, is about what you put on yourself and not what you put inside of yourself,” she says.
Hormonal changes occurring during menopause affect women’s mental health and sense of self, says Gwendolyn Floyd, CEO of Wile, on the panel alongside Greer. A study from Elektra Health, a menopause coaching and education health company, found over two-thirds of menopausal women aged 40 to 55 fear menopause’s effect on their mental health.
Many berate themselves for not being able to “fire on all cylinders” at work—especially as menopause hits right when many women reach leadership positions in their career. Greer, known for her roles in 13 Going on 30 and 27 Dresses, felt perimenopause’s impact on her job performance.
“I thought I was depressed. I thought, I’m sick. I thought there was something really wrong with me,” she says at Fortune’s conference. “I couldn’t remember my lines. I was sad, and I’ve never been a sad person.”
Greer says her doctors told her to go on Prozac or birth control to ease symptoms, spurring the research that led to her advocacy.
“If we aren’t doing our own research, how are we supposed to know?” she adds, underscoring the need to hold the medical community accountable and advocate for more comprehensive menopause education in medical schools.
Addressing some of menopause’s symptoms can help women feel more confident, especially at work. One U.K. survey found 900,000 women left their jobs because they felt menopause hurt their ability to perform.