World Menopause Day is part of a campaign from the International Menopause Society (IMS) that aims to raise awareness of all things menopausal. This is a message that is particularly close to my heart as this is essentially what I am trying to do in my work – empower women with knowledge, give them a voice to share their experiences and symptoms, offer them a safe space in which to do this and offer them ways to help them more successfully manage their menopause.
Arming women with the information
People actually laugh when I say I am passionate about the menopause but I absolutely am! I can quite honestly say I love my job, listening to women thanking me for ‘turning their life around’ or giving them ‘their life back’. I want all women to be armed with, and empowered by, all the available information so that they can make the most informed choices. When you take a figure like 30 % of women in West Midlands Police have considered giving up work because of their menopausal symptoms – and I would say this is a real underestimation – you realise much more support needs to be in place.
If you are sweating like a swamp creature, not sleeping, have lost your identity and self-esteem, feel paranoid, anxious, possibly angry and irritable you are unlikely to be the best version of yourself at work – or at home. Yet something as simple as prescribing the right balance of hormones can often completely transform lives. Menopause can be such a difficult and vulnerable time in a woman’s life and we need to address this. For women in their 40s and 50s, who have worked hard to get where they are, they shouldn’t have to jeopardise that during this transitional time in their lives.
I am acutely aware it is not always easy to get the information or range of treatment options across. Or to fully address women’s fears about HRT. When I was working as a GP I had 10 minute appointment slots and this was not enough to arm patients with all the information they need. I found myself talking really fast in a bid to give them as much as I could in the allotted time. I also often pointed them in the direction of helpful websites or printed out helpful advice.
If we can create a climate where people feel they can open up and chat about the menopause freely then we are moving in the right direction. But we are not yet at a point where women are chatting over a prosecco about how HRT has kick-started their sex life or Regelle is the perfect product to ease their dry vagina – but the world is evolving.
The point is, menopause isn’t just difficult to talk about for the women going through it – it is similarly taboo for younger women and men, both of whom are often having to live and work with menopausal women.
For me, any initiative like World Menopause Day that contributes to raising awareness and keeping the conversation going is certainly a positive one.