Don’t say the M word

It’s time for us all to help change neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes to­wards the menopause

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

Med­i­cally speak­ing, there's no such thing as the ‘male menopause’. The lucky devils!

It hap­pens to every sin­gle woman on the planet, whether su­per­model or su­per­mar­ket worker. But no-one wants to dis­cuss it.

The menopause.

For most women, the word it­self is enough to bring on a hot flush of shame.

Night sweats, stray chin hairs, vagi­nal dry­ness… Is it any won­der the menopause isn’t a favourite topic?

But be­fore you know it, you’re the woman in the of­fice reach­ing for the desk fan, and there’s nowhere left to hide.

So why do women feel so ashamed of some­thing that’s en­tirely nat­u­ral and, let’s face it, un­avoid­able?

Di­ane Danze­brink, a psy­chother­a­pist who spe­cialises in sup­port­ing women through the menopause, told

Pick Me Up!, ‘Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, women were put in asy­lums be­cause of menopause symp­toms.

‘So his­tor­i­cally, it has been some­thing that women have dealt with be­hind closed doors. Even now, it’s still seen as some­thing we don’t talk about in po­lite so­ci­ety.’

Di­ane, who runs The Menopause

Sup­port

Net­work group on Face­book, says women even find it dif­fi­cult to dis­cuss the menopause with their friends. ‘No-one wants to be the first to talk,’ she says. When dis­cussing their fears around menopause, Di­ane’s clients of­ten come back to the same themes.

‘There’s a fear of be­ing judged, not want­ing to feel old, and feel­ing a loss of fem­i­nin­ity,’ ex­plains Di­ane. A ma­jor part of the prob­lem is that a woman’s fer­til­ity has long been seen to be sym­bolic of her youth and her sex­ual at­trac­tive­ness.

As the menopause sig­nals the end of a woman’s re­pro­duc­tive years, the im­plicit mes­sage there­fore, is that a woman’s youth and her at­trac­tive­ness are also over.

Com­bine this with the pres­sure of liv­ing in a so­ci­ety ob­sessed with youth and beauty, it’s per­haps in­evitable that the menopause brings with it stigma, shame and a cri­sis of con­fi­dence.

And that has real-life im­pli­ca­tions.

A 2016 sur­vey by the Bri­tish Menopause So­ci­ety found 50 per cent of women avoid talk­ing to their GP about it, be­cause of the stigma sur­round­ing it.

And 42 per cent of women ad­mit­ted that their symp­toms were worse or much worse than they’d ex­pected.

As a re­sult, many women are suf­fer­ing in si­lence, with­out re­ceiv­ing any treat­ment at all.

And while symp­toms such as hot flushes and weight gain are rel­a­tively well known, less recog­nised are mem­ory prob­lems and ‘ brain fog’, sleep dis­tur­bance and fa­tigue, as well as de­pres­sion and mood swings.

And that’s just the tip of the ice­berg. There are around 35 dif­fer­ent recog­nised symp­toms of the menopause. In the work­place, this can have se­ri­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

A 2017 study by ITV’S Tonight pro­gramme found that one in four menopausal women con­sider quit­ting their jobs due to lack of sup­port and un­der­stand­ing at work. Equally, a re­port by the Govern­ment’s Equal­i­ties Of­fice in 2017 found that some work­ers were so afraid of fac­ing ridicule and ageism due to em­bar­rass­ing symp­toms, such as blad­der weak­ness and hot flushes, that they’d rather phone in sick than go to work. The av­er­age age of the menopause in the UK is 51, but fig­ures show one in 100 women ex­pe­ri­ence it be­fore the age of 40 and, in some rare cases, women in their teens and 20s can go through pre­ma­ture menopause. With symp­toms that last an av­er­age of eight years, that’s a very long time for women to be feel­ing ashamed, un­happy and un­sup­ported. But it’s not all gloom. A 2018 sur­vey of 2,000

You are of­fi­cially in the menopause when you have gone 12 months with­out hav­ing a pe­riod.

women for health sup­ple­ment Menopace found women were grad­u­ally find­ing it eas­ier to dis­cuss the menopause openly, with 81 per cent say­ing they felt at­ti­tudes were chang­ing.

And 31 per cent felt that celebri­ties such as Zoe Ball, 48, and Dav­ina Mc­call, 51, dis­cussing it was help­ing to re­move the stigma and make them feel more com­fort­able talk­ing about it, too.

It’s not just home-grown stars who’ve spo­ken out, ei­ther – Hol­ly­wood A-list celebri­ties are adding their voices, as well.

Ac­tress and cam­paigner An­gelina Jolie, 46, re­cently said, ‘I ac­tu­ally love be­ing in menopause’, af­ter surgery to re­move her ovaries, due to car­ry­ing the de­fec­tive gene linked to can­cer.

So the mes­sage is chang­ing. Now, in­stead of hor­ror sto­ries, we’re hear­ing that even the most glam­orous of women go through the change and, while no-one’s pre­tend­ing it’s al­ways a bed of roses, the mes­sage that you can still be con­fi­dent, happy and sexy is start­ing to shine through.

Hol­ly­wood ac­tress and health guru Gwyneth Pal­trow re­cently made head­lines, when she spoke of hav­ing menopausal symp­toms at the age of 46. ‘I think menopause gets a re­ally bad rap and needs a bit of a re­brand­ing,’ she was re­ported as say­ing. ‘I don’t think that we have in our so­ci­ety a great ex­am­ple of an as­pi­ra­tional, menopausal woman.’ Brit­pop icon, movie cos­tume de­signer, and now in­te­rior de­signer Meg Matthews is cer­tainly one such woman. For­merly mar­ried to Oa­sis singer Noel Gal­lagher, she no­ticed the first symp­toms of the menopause at 50 and was shocked by the lack of sup­port and un­der­stand­ing shown about the sub­ject.

As a re­sult of this, Meg was de­ter­mined to do some­thing to break the stigma sur­round­ing the menopause and launched her web­site – megs­menopause. com – as a source for ad­vice and em­pow­er­ment.

But, while hav­ing strong, glam­orous celebs speak openly about the is­sue is a great start, real change must be­gin with us.

If we can talk openly and hon­estly to our friends, lovers, col­leagues and chil­dren about the menopause, then hope­fully, when our daugh­ters are fac­ing their change of life, they will be able to do so with con­fi­dence and pride, not shame.

In­spi­ra­tional: Meg Matthews

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