I like to think that there doesn’t seem to be anything we can’t talk about now. We stand up and speak out, and all of the taboos surrounding so many aspects of society that were swept under the carpet in previous generations are now given a solid airing. For men and women alike, nothing seems to be off limits, but for women in particular, this has been a huge leap forward. Last week, Stella Magazine reported that the menopause is “having a MeToo moment” and that “… midlife women are standing up and declaring solidarity with one another at the end of their fertile years.” Not before time.
To be fair, talk around the menopause has edged into mainstream awareness significantly over the last couple of years. Thanks to women like Meg Mathews – who, with a lack of information out there, struggled to understand and cope with her own debilitating experience of the menopause, and as a result launched the informative website MegsMenopause, together with a range of intimate skincare products specifically designed for the menopause. It speaks volumes that she now has over 39,000 followers. When we interviewed Meg last year she told us: “I thought I was going mad. I was becoming so forgetful, anxious and moody. When I realised that these were all menopause symptoms, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.”
So women are talking to women, raising a consciousness that we are not alone and that we are not going mad! We know about the physical symptoms and share our stories. The fact that we are now able to openly discuss this is a substantial step in the right direction. Where we are still falling down is in the lack of help and support that is available to us as we go through this stage of life, particularly when you consider the not so talked about effects of the menopause – the toll it takes on our mental health and wellbeing. Of course, there are women who will breeze through the menopause and who genuinely don’t know what the fuss is all about, but equally, for so many women, the strain on their mental wellbeing can be on a level that is off the scale.
For career women, this can have a devastating effect on their working lives. A recent Guardian article highlighted the fact that many female doctors going through the menopause are reducing their hours or retiring early through a lack of understanding, flexibility and support within their profession – a particularly ironic point to consider when the GP is usually our first port of call with menopause symptoms. If a lack of awareness still exists to this extent within the healthcare profession, it follows that this has to be true across the workplace in every industry. Employers need to recognise the health impacts of the menopause.
What has to be addressed now is how the practical aspects of going through the menopause can be accommodated. Understandably, we make allowances for pregnant women – days off here and there, extended periods of leave, with an understanding that the hormonal shift – over which they have no control – affects wellbeing and reduces their work productivity. Surely these same allowances should translate to accommodate women going through the menopause? After all, the effects of hormonal imbalance are just as significant, with the equivalent lack of control. And in the same way that a pregnancy runs its course, we know that women will emerge on the other side of the menopause to be just as productive as they ever were.
For women outside the workplace, who are running homes and raising children, it’s an exhausting environment in itself. When you factor in the menopause – that largely arrives when the teenage years are kicking off or the sudden isolation as they begin to leave and fend for themselves – the need for practical support within the home is imperative. More literature needs to be available for partners and husbands to understand the changes they are seeing. When so many women still say that they didn’t see it coming, imagine the confusion within a family, who also didn’t see it coming. It’s simple. If they know what’s happening, they can help.
From the beginning of this month the menopause is going to be added to the school curriculum in England for the first time. This will have an immense impact going forwards. How do we explain to our children the endless fatigue, forgetfulness and anxiety that we’re going through, constantly fanning the fridge door, or the wild fury – and it seems to come from nowhere – over something as tiny as a wet towel left on the floor, particularly when the arrival of this inner lunatic is just as much of a shock to ourselves? We try to, of course, but the fact that schools will now educate our children to understand these symptoms is going to make the burden of these menopause years a lot easier for us to bear. Added to which, in the decades to come when our daughters are going through exactly the same experience, they will know what’s happening. They will be prepared.
Grace Fodor – PRO AGE warrior, Beauty Expert & Founder of Studio10. Passionate about challenging outdated stereotypes, anti-ageing and ageism to celebrate age. Providing education on how to apply makeup for older women.