Tmenopause was the condition that dare not pronounce its name, the domain of older aunts whispering about “change.” Now it is impossible to escape the subject. Many celebrities, from Davina McCall to Meg Mathews, keep talking about hot flashes, brain fog and vaginal atrophy. Monday is World Menopause Day.
The cause even received royal support recently, with Sophie, Countess of Wessex, godmother of the association. Well-being of women, speaking about the plight of postmenopausal women at work. “We’re fabulous in our forties and even more fabulous in our 50s, 60s and 60s,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to let ourselves fall into the shadows.” Quite.
The statistics are striking: 900,000 women have quit their jobs because of symptoms of menopause, according to the Menopause Charity association, 80% reporting hot flashes and 60% brain fog. A TUC survey of 4,000 women found that menopause affected the working lives of 85% of those surveyed.
There is also a sort of menopause gold rush going on. Many brands have launched menopause creams, cookware, and even menopausal clothing. Maybe I’m a cranky guy, but I can’t help but wonder how useful this really is and how bad the marketing turns.
Of course, it’s good that menopause policies are becoming a must for businesses, but, as Jenny Haskey, president of the Menopause Charity, says, “It’s not enough for businesses to have a menopause policy that’s right there. in a folder. We need the right conversations and a culture change.
“Most importantly, women should talk to their doctor during perimenopause and menopause because hormones fluctuate, and have regular checkups. They need to know what the medical options are for their symptoms, whether it’s HRT, certain hot flash medications, or vaginal estrogen. And, of course, doctors need to have the information women need.
“It is striking that 15,000 trainee doctors, nurses and general practitioners have taken the free FourteenFish Confidence in Menopause course since the association launched it in May – to address the lack of this material in existing medical training.
A survey conducted last week by Midi, the platform that I founded for women in their 40s, with supplement brand Lyma, found that 85% of women wanted more and better information about menopause (we just published our six part guide, The Feelgood Menopause, written by health journalist Jo Waters) and 65% said they were confused, especially about the safety of HRT.
But while there is no doubt that an overhaul of available treatments is needed (the all-party-backed Menopause (Support and Services) Bill will receive its second reading later this month, in the hope to make HRT free of NHS fees in England (as it is in Scotland and Wales) I want to issue a caveat.
I’ve spent the last year chatting with mature women and while they all want access to reliable information and knowledgeable doctors, they’re also clear that they don’t want to be defined by their biology.
Granted, as a young woman, I didn’t want to be defined by whether or not I had my period. I was often enraged when I was accused of being premenstrual (code for moody). Let’s not forget that for millennia, women have been excluded from education on the grounds that their brains are inferior due to their wombs and pesky hormones.
Menopause is a natural phase of life for which women need correct information and medical care. At 50, I really don’t want to be defined as a hysterical collection of brain fog and sweat, kept from doing my job by my pesky hormones. And I don’t want employers to be dissuaded (any more than they already are by ageism) from hiring older women.
I am not alone in this point of view. Another Noon survey, conducted with Vision Express last month, found that 67% of middle-aged women didn’t want to be seen as a walking hot flash.
My immersion in the lives of these women made me realize that the pivot of 40 is not just about hormones. Research from the Center for Midlife in America reveals that misfortune peaks at age 47, because that’s when we are hit by a tsunami of problems: divorce, bereavement, empty nests, elderly parents, our own problems of health and dismissal.
There is also this creeping feeling as we reach 50 that there is even less life to come than what has already happened and we need to make the remaining years count. Many women I have spoken to are keen to stress that this time in their lives is not just about menopause.
The stories we hear at noon are about women who want a new challenge, a legacy, a purpose. Many are going back to college as mature students, “finally doing something for me,” as one told me last week. Others return to pursue the dreams they had when they were younger – one woman became an actress at 60, while another who was told at school that her options were to be a teacher , secretary or hairdresser (and opted for the latter) published her first novel in her fifties. Some have left the corporate world and become consultants or start their own business.
noon # See yourself differently The campaign features seven women in their 40s who are starting a new chapter and loving the lives they lead. One of the women is TV and radio presenter Jo Whiley, who said, “There is a joy and a release that comes with age. It makes perfect sense for me to embrace your 40s – you have more knowledge, wisdom and experience.
Another woman, Rachel Peru, became a curvy / lingerie model at age 50 (she had always wanted to be an actress). Victoria Whitford quit her diplomatic career at 46 and converted to become a general practitioner, which was her childhood dream.
I am all in favor of coming out of menopause from the shadows. Unlike childbirth or breastfeeding, menopause is something all women go through. For too long, women’s health issues have been the poor cousin, underfunded, under-studied. I welcome the spotlight on, for example, HRT reassessments. The latest studies show only minimal risks from taking it and, for many women, it is a lifeline.
Kate Muir, producer of Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and Menopause on Channel 4 and author of a forthcoming book titled Everything you need to know about menopause, said: “Speaking with menopause experts and women themselves, I discovered that the main problem at work is not just hot flashes, but the combination of anxiety, loss of self-confidence and fatigue. Brain fog is a major concern for powerful women.
“Hormonal anxiety and brain fog are not treated properly, with a Newson Health survey showing that 66% of women complaining of bad mood during menopause were offered antidepressants rather than HRT, which is much more likely to help. I had comically low levels of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. They were so low that my brain just wasn’t functioning properly. Once I got the right cocktail of hormones, it started to run at full speed again ”.
For eons, in the eyes of men, women ceased to be precious when they were no longer fertile or fanciful – which is why, too often, older women are erased from the cultural narrative and become invisible because the male lens does not want to look on them. We need to fix menopause so that we can live a rich second half of life. We don’t want the “pinkification” gold rush to put women back in that old “hysterical” box.
I don’t want a pot branded with the menopause or menopause-friendly clothing – I just want to continue to feel good about myself and live the life I love.