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.
While 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