The menopause is a rite of passage that happens to every women yet it is a taboo subject! My grandmother definitely did not speak about it and my mum’s generation spoke with their eyes and mouthed it ‘the change’. Slowly, it’s becoming easier to talk about our menopause among groups of women ‘of a certain age’ but it remains a stubbornly taboo subject in wider circles.
To be honest I didn’t really think about menopause until I had to think about it. I didn’t realise that it was a gradual shift in pattern and that it came in 3 stages – perimenopause, menopause and post menopause and that it could last for anything between 5 to 15 years for the first two stages, plus post menopause! That’s a lot of years to be unclear about what’s happening to my own body!
I have to say getting clarity of understanding and getting the right support and advice is shockingly poor. We laugh about it and Baroness Van Sketch capture our confusion wonderfully well:
It isn't perimenopause…is it? pic.twitter.com/u4lCZixgZe
— Baroness von Sketch Show (@BaronessShow) September 30, 2019
So why is menopause becoming such a hot topic of conversation? Well about 100 years ago the average woman did not live beyond her fertile age and it is thought that few lived long enough to experience menopause. Our grandmothers and mothers went through menopause but were at home, probably enduring it in shame. The average life expectancy of women has increased significantly which means that many of us could live to 30+ more years in post-menopause. Many of us go through perimenopause and menopause whilst holding down demanding full time work outside the home and some of the menopausal symptoms can leave us feeling that we are going through a certain kind of madness. In an age where maintaining a youthful outlook is highly valued, menopause is anticipated with anxiety. It is good to see that we are now at a stage where we want to be informed and we want to know what to expect. We are getting better at putting ourselves in charge of our own bodies so that we can make informed choices. There are some excellent medical practitioners in the field, but there is also some dire practice. It is not uncommon for menopause to be misdiagnosed as depression or for the same HRT treatment to be prescribed for every female patient even though we know that every woman is different. Being educated about your own body, noting the changes, seeking the best medical guidance from a practitioner who has the right level of expertise and making a plan which is right for you will make your menopause easier, less stressful and not frightening at all. You’ll hold on to your sense of humour, your self worth and your independence – things that you’ve spent your whole life building up and expecting to have. Being informed is all part of self love.
I spoke about menopause at The #WomenEd Unconference 5. It was in response to a number of women who have been treated very poorly in the workplace. A high number find themselves facing redundancy at a time when they are feeling at their most vulnerable. Workplace adjustments are uncommon, many choosing to ignoring guidance. Menopause is covered under the Equality Act 2010 and the first court cases in relation to menopause have been won. Others are on the radar and could be age, gender or even disability discrimination related. As awareness is growing thus increasing awareness around menopause as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish tribunal fees for claimants, it is likely that the number of cases will increase.
We need help to end stigma around the menopause by encouraging an understanding of it within our families, social circles and in the workplace. It is ok to ask for reasonable adjustments. Dr Louise Newson, is a highly respected expert on the menopause provides good guidance here: https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/menopause/menopause-work-new-guidelines
So, in closing, irrespective of whether you’re perimenopausal, menopausal, post menopausal or waiting for it all to happen, let’s break the stigma and normalise this rite of passage by talking about it. Take care of you and make a plan to embrace yourself fully and enjoy each day