Menopause: why aren’t we talking about it?

Menopause is part of life’s pattern for women. But while puberty, pregnancy and childbirth are a regular part of our conversation, it seems that menopause is sadly still taboo.

A woman with her mouth coveredWhile attitudes are thankfully starting to change, it still seems that menopause conjures up images of wrinkly old women overcome by hot flushes veering from one end of the mood spectrum to the other.

But the reality is that many menopausal women will have many years left in the workplace. On average, women go through menopause at the age of 51, with perimenopause beginning in their 40s – although for some, it can happen much earlier for medical or surgical reasons.

And yes some women experience hot flushes and mood swings, along with a whole host of other symptoms. While some sail through it with barely a problem. But for those suffering, the misconceptions are hurtful and the silence is deafening.

We asked some of our community to let us know their thoughts on why we still aren’t talking about menopause: 

“I think it is embarrassment and perhaps fear about whether what individual people are feeling or experiencing is normal!” Anne Loadman

“I would think male-orientated companies would squirm. Women still think it’s a sign of getting old, doctors don’t really help. Some barriers to break.” Jackie Owen

“I have to say I’ve never experienced any difficulty with people mentioning menopause to me, or me bringing it up. Perhaps because I’ve always worked with women? That said, knowing that I’m perimenopausal does make me feel a bit old and past it when I mention it to my other half.” Misia Smith

“I wonder if we’re influenced by how our mothers described and experienced it? My mum seemed to talk endlessly about it in very negative ways, so I completely clammed, refusing to acknowledge it and hiding it away for years.” Sue Pringle

“In cultures where older women are valued, menopause is either a positive experience or not even noticed. With it comes transition into being a wise woman. I think that here in the youth-obsessed West, the view seems to be more of a ‘loss’ – of fertility, of youth, of sexuality etc, rather than a ‘gain’ of freedom and wisdom. It also seems to me that it has become a “condition” rather than a period of transition.” Jacqueline Seddon

“Talking with other women about the menopause in either an informal setting or friends and family has not been a problem, many times we have laughed and shared experiences and tips. But in a more formal environment – such as at work – barriers exist, managers and colleagues are uncomfortable and some are dismissive and do not want to know. Also when the menopause is medicalised rather than experienced as a natural part of the female cycle, it moves the medics to the role of expert and can leave us as women feeling helpless, rather than valued.” Anne Goodridge

“The GP I work with tells me that it’s not uncommon to see ladies for the first time five years or more into menopause saying ‘I’m struggling, I need help’. They’re desperate for a medical ‘fix’. So menopause becomes a medical condition rather than a natural transition of life.” Clare Shepherd

“Well, once you’ve seen Les Dawson having a hot flush you know menopause is something you don’t want to go through!” Katherine Bellchambers-Wilson

“In Chinese Medicine or in the East, the menopause is known as the Golden Years – it is celebrated, as the female body has done its job of producing children and now it is time for the woman to be herself, her reproducing years are over and is a time for her. I like this way of thinking – time to embrace and time for ourselves.” M J Aslin

“Menopause and menstruation = shame and embarrassment = women’s problems. There’s still a huge barrier that stops women talking openly about it and pink princesses don’t bleed and have vaginal dryness, do they? It does feel like we’ve reached this completely crazy place in the 21st century where women’s bodies are plastered everywhere but only in a sanitised and sexualised way that doesn’t frighten men.” Jane Minton

“It is a sign of getting older, but maybe we need to change our view on that and celebrate it in some way – like a second coming of age!” Anne Loadman

Why do you think we don’t openly talk about menopause? Join in the conversation below to let us know your thoughts…

Menopause in the workplace

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  • Samantha Evans

    I have amazing conversations with many women experiencing the menopause who buy from Jo Divine and read our articles for advice who have been struggling with symptoms but get no advice from their GP. Too many women are dismissed by their GP when they have symptoms, told they are too young, their symptoms are not menopausal when they clearly are or prescribed sexual lubricants and moisturisers that contain glycerine which can cause thrush and parabens which are oestrogenic and banned from many beauty products. Women don’t bother going back if they get little or no advice, aren’t listened to or believed and continue to suffer with their problems. Sometimes relationships become strained or even break down.There is such a lack of education about the menopause, yet we are 51% of the population and the majority of women experience a variety of menopausal symptoms which impact upon their daily life. I now see a female GP as my own male GP has been dismissive about my skin issues and chest pain, I’m perimenopausal. The female GP says it drives her potty that male colleagues are hopeless at dealing with the menopause, she is able to advise men who have prostate issues, so why can’t male colleagues advise women. Some male HCPs are amazing including the gynaecologist we created our health brochure with that offers suitable sex toys and YES organic lubricants, he recommends sex toys to his patients as do many of the HCPs I work with across the UK. The whole one size fits all approach does not work and as Dr Louise Newson says, when you get the right HRT and treatment, it can transform women’s lives. The media don’t help either with scaremongering women with daft headlines and research, much of which has now been proven to be flawed and posting the photo of the sad menopausal woman. It also doesn’t help when Dr Helen Stokes Lampard, chair of RCGP says women can see a GP who specialises in the menopause as not all practices have one. Being a member of the RCOG womens FB group I hear and have written for Huff Post and Jo Divine about how women who got “lucky” and received good treatment, advice and care just because their GP read a research article, heard a talk from an expert or a womens health GP was visiting their practice. The RCOG even have links to their menopause hub which offers poor advice about the menopause but because it is on an NHS website, it never gets changed. Talking to Diane Danzebrink she says women are just relieved they can talk about the menopause when they come to her support group and not feel they are the only ones suffering. There are many people working hard to help women get the right help so keep on doing what you do at Henpicked and I’ll do the same at Jo Divine, having surrounded myself with people who know so much about the menopause I know I will have lots of support and the right advice x