Menopause, in simple terms, is a natural part of being a woman. The most important thing to say is that menopause is normal. It isn’t something to be ashamed of or scared of. For many years it has often been dismissed as just another one of those ‘women’s things’ like periods and childbirth that were never talked about.
One of the most common myths about menopause is that it happens to women ‘over 50’ and it’s just mood swings and hot flushes. It has had negative connotations and been viewed by some as the transition to a woman being ‘past it’, no longer able to have children and time for her to disappear in to middle age, take up crochet and wear flat shoes and cardigans (which is becoming popular for any age). We were expected to just get on with it, while our long suffering husbands or partners put up with it. Well forget that! We can still be hot stuff. We just need some understanding as menopause is real and can be a little scary.
In October 2020 the lunchtime TV programme Loose Women had a menopause awareness week. Menopause was discussed by an all-female panel in the public domain. They were inundated with women sharing their stories via social media, who had felt isolated and embarrassed to seek help from their family doctor, or even to confide in their friends or partners. Finally it felt OK to talk about menopause and the conversation continues.
There is still a general lack of understanding and many assumptions are to be dispelled. Menopause affects every woman differently. Some women can experience multiple symptoms over many years and are misdiagnosed so don’t get the help and support they need. I started my menopause in my early 30s and over a few years I developed symptoms which appeared unrelated and on their own could be dismissed. It took many years to piece the jigsaw together and finally understand what was happening. I was officially diagnosed with early menopause (POI) at 40. I questioned this, as surely life ‘begins’ at 40 doesn’t it? But, with the benefit of hindsight it explained a lot and I wish I had spoken to my GP sooner and got the support I needed.
Symptoms can include some, or all of the following:
- Hot flush and night sweats
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Disrupted sleep
- Reduced libido
- Low mood
This is just to name just a few. Especially in younger women, symptoms can be dismissed as stress or mild depression leading to some women being prescribed anti-depressants rather than HRT or other more suitable remedies. When it isn’t diagnosed or talked about, menopause can have a negative impact on a woman’s family life and even affect her performance at work.
Many women still feel unable to discuss their concerns with their partner, or confide in a line manager. The time has arrived that we shouldn’t be scared of or embarrassed by menopause any longer! Menopause is a topic that women should feel comfortable to openly discuss, even when there are men in the room – include them in the conversation!
At long last, the good news is that menopause is a hot topic (pun intended), and people are starting to talk about menopause in a supportive way. Help is out there!
Nacro have currently drafted our first ever menopause policy and procedure, that is currently being reviewed by our union, Unite. It is great to see our workplace take the right steps forward and offer guidance around something that will or has happened to over 50% of our organisation.
- Loose Women talk menopause
- NHS explain menopause
- Menopause resource library
- Menopause Matters newsletter
- What is POI (Premature Ovarian Insufficiency)?
- Jenny Eclair: ‘Menopause gave me incandescent rage. It was like a superpower’
- Talking premature menopause