There's been a buzz around the menopause of late. Celebrities such as Davina McCall and Lisa Snowdon are discussing it more, there are panel shows on TV, and social media campaigns surrounding "the change" are raising awareness. October has been branded Menopause Awareness Month and Primark has even launched a special menopause collection including base layers made with innovative anti-flush technology.
While you're likely to have seen conversations happening, it's the last thing on your mind, right? It happens to women in their 40s or 50s, so you don't have to think about it for years, do you? Well, no actually.
Whether you like it or not, the menopause will affect you at some point in your life so it's important to be armed with knowledge, not only for yourself but so you are more compassionate to those around you. It's only recently that the menopause has really come to the forefront of conversations, with many historically being left to deal with it themselves. According to a recent survey for the British Menopause Society, one in two women in the UK go through the menopause without consulting a medical professional, with research by TENA identifying that a quarter of women find it difficult to open up about the menopause, perceiving the topic to be taboo.
Yet as we've come to understand more and more, opening up and talking can be the most important thing you can do. "Discussing menopause symptoms head-on allows women to be empowered with the knowledge to make informed choices. When women impart information through the generations, a more dynamic community is created," Marva Williams, founder of Shh…Menopause Wellness tells POPSUGAR.
"When women impart information through the generations, a more dynamic community is created"
The more conversations we have surrounding women's health, the more we can encourage better understanding, care, and solutions to help alleviate symptoms. For many of us, the first point of call for menopause chat would be our own mothers, of course depending on your personal relationship or situation. As a result, TENA has launched the #LastLonelyMenopause campaign which aims to encourage intergenerational conversations about the menopause. "The menopause happens at work, in your relationship, when you walk down the street and when you meet friends, so it's important that we talk about it openly and without shame," a representative for the brand imparts.
"Asking your mother about when she saw her last cycle or what her experience with the menopause was like can help prepare you for what's to come," Karen Arthur, host of podcast Menopause Whilst Black explains to POPSUGAR.
It's important to remember the menopause is different for everyone, much like each individual's experience with periods. While some barely acknowledge that monthly friend, others suffer with pains, mood swings, and skin issues. As hormone levels change, our periods ease up and eventually stop. You officially reach menopause when you have not had a period for 12 months, most commonly between the ages of 45 and 55, yet it can also occur earlier than this naturally, or due to surgery such as a hysterectomy or cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Perimenopause is the time before your periods have stopped, yet symptoms are occurring.
"There are 48 menopause symptoms and each experience comes with its own surprising cocktail. Some breeze through the symptoms while others can experience them for years," a Tena representative says. Common symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes, low mood, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. "Everyone will experience the menopause differently so it's important that women feel empowered to speak about their symptoms with healthcare professionals so that they can receive care which is tailored to their needs," Dr Haitham Hamoda, Consultant Gynaecologist and Spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) tells POPSUGAR.
While public awareness of the menopause is growing, the RCOG believes that the extent it can impact everyday life is still far from understood, which is why it is calling on the government to introduce mandatory workplace policies. "The signs and symptoms of menopause can be debilitating and affect every area of women's lives," Arthur highlights. Earlier this year, researchers warned that one million women experiencing menopause could quit their jobs due to a lack of support and understanding. "The mental and physical impact menopause can have on a woman must be recognised within businesses and organisations," Williams says.
It's imperative we start having these conversations, even in our 20s. Encourage those close to you who might be silently struggling to talk. Listen and be a compassionate ear or gently suggest seeking medical advice to discuss options such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), diet, or lifestyle changes for those women who are having a tough time.
"We must be the generation to make menopause matter"
Not only are open discussions necessary, but when did you first learn about the menopause? It's unlikely you were taught any of it at school, with most biology lessons stopping after reproduction. "I would like the menopause to be the most natural topic to chat about. Education is also needed within the curriculum right up to workplace practice and policies. We must be the generation to make menopause matter," Arthur says.
Women who are going through the menopause need to feel seen and heard. "Misinformation about the menopause can lead to many women not receiving the treatment or help that would be available to them. It's essential that women have access to unbiased and evidence based information to help them make informed decisions about their care, "Dr Hamoda explains.
Menopause is no longer a one woman problem. If anything, it serves as a reminder that we need to be a lot more vocal about what's happening with our bodies. By supporting other women who are going through the menopause, we will be helping to lift the taboo and ensure that the topic is never swept under the rug.