In recent months there’s been increasing media coverage about the menopause. High profile celebrities sharing their experiences include Gabby Logan, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few. We’ve seen the excellent Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause documentary on Channel 4 . There are menopause focussed blogs, campaigns and lifestyle sites such as Noon, Henpicked, 50Sense, and Pausitivity. So why does it remain so difficult to have a conversation about the “M word”?
Menopause will directly affect around half the population at some point in their lifetime. According to the Government report on menopause , menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic. The average age for a woman to go through menopause is 51. The average age for peri-menopausal symptoms to start is 47. Nearly 8 out of 10 of menopausal women are in work and a significant number have given up their careers early due to lack of adequate support in the workplace. And yet, a Parliamentary Petition  created in May this year aimed at requiring all employers with over 250 employees to have a menopause policy has, to date, attracted less than 3000 signatures.
In June, Carolyn Harris MP led a Westminster Hall debate entitled “Support for people experiencing menopausal symptoms”  and invited anyone to share their experiences. You can read the transcript here. It includes shocking statistics about the level of menopause education in medical schools, as well as reports of misdiagnoses and ill-informed GPs, women who can’t afford the cost of HRT treatment (why is this not free of charge like contraceptives?) and a general lack of widely available, accurate information that could help us prepare for this stage in our lives.
For me, obvious menopausal symptoms started quite suddenly. In hindsight there were earlier indications of peri-menopause, but at the time I simply didn’t know what to look out for.
The general perception seems to be that menopause equals hot flushes and being a bit grumpy, but for some it goes way beyond that and symptoms can have a massive impact on both work and personal life. This is different for everyone, but in my case..
- Hot flushes were like nothing I could have imagined, coming out of nowhere at any time of day.
- Changes in the condition of my hair, skin and nails, left me feeling old and had a huge impact on my self-confidence.
- Poor quality, disturbed sleep due to night sweats and anxiety made me tired, irritable and unable to concentrate.
- And brain fog, which for me still has the most significant impact work-wise. On a bad day it feels like my brain is at a standstill.
Five years on, although symptoms haven’t disappeared, it feels like I’m starting to come out the other side. I’m happy to “out” myself as a menopausal woman in the hope that by sharing my experiences I can help others understand theirs.
But if we’re really going to open up discussion on the subject, we need to remove stigma around the “M word” so that people feel confident asking for support and are not worried about being judged when they do. We must also remember that some go through premature menopause in their 20s or 30s; that menopause affects nonbinary, transgender and other gender diverse people. We must not assume this conversation is only relevant to heterosexual, older women.
So, my final thought here is that menopause needs a rebrand. Most of us going through menopause and peri-menopause right now are Gen Xers. Some of us were punks, goths, new romantics, ladettes. But much of the branding and imagery around menopause still appears to be targeted at straight, middle class women who are wives and mothers, and enjoy hobbies like yoga, country walks and meditation – nothing wrong with any of those things, but not everyone identifies with that image. We need access to information that “speaks” to us all. We want understanding, respect and to be recognised for the diverse range of individuals we are.
Please get in touch if you’d like to find out what Aurora is doing to support menopause, diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
 Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause. Channel 4 documentaries.
 Government Research and Analysis. Menopause transition: effects on women’s economic participation. Published 20 July 2017.
 UK Government and Parliament Petitions: Require employers with more than 250 employees to introduce a Menopause Policy. Deadline 6 November 2021.
 Westminster Hall Debate: Support for people experiencing menopausal symptoms. 9 June 2021.