Twenty years ago menopause didn’t feature in the mainstream media. It was barely discussed behind closed doors, woman to woman, either. Menopause signalled midlife, a short hobble before becoming an ‘old’ woman, and was decidedly unsexy.
But times have changed, in 2019 menopause has become a hot topic and everyone is talking about it!
This spotlight on menopause is in part due to a successful and influential generation of women, in the public eye, who have reached the peri to post menopause years.
These women, born in the 60’s and 70’s, have lived through transformational pieces of legislation to protect women’s rights like the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. Women in their 40’s and 50’s today have fought battles their mothers could only dream of. Whether it’s taking a place in the boardroom, tackling ageism, or calling out misogyny, this is a generation of women who understood girl power way before the Spice Girls coined the phrase.
Celebrities, presenters and journalists including BBC Breakfast’s Louise Minchin, broadcaster and journalist Andrea Mclean, researcher, writer and television broadcaster Liz Earle, and former music industry PR and events planner Meg Mathews, have all been very vocal in sharing their personal experiences of menopause.
A growing band of campaigners and female health advocates have been joined by medics and clinicians, specialising in menopause, to ensure women have access to evidence based advice, support, and appropriate treatment.
Leading the way on this are women like Dr Louise Newson, a GP and menopause expert and founder of Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre, Diane Danzebrink, menopause counsellor and founder of the Make Menopause Matter campaign, Dr Heather Currie, founder of award winning website and magazine Menopause Matters which provides up-to-date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options, Jane Simpson, leading urinary and pelvic floor specialist and author of The Pelvic Floor Bible, and Jane Lewis, author of Me & My Menopausal Vagina, a groundbreaking piece of work on vaginal atrophy, irritation and dryness.
We also have World Menopause Day to thank for making menopause a hot topic. This annual event, which falls on 18th October, aims to raise awareness on the menopause and support options for improving health and wellbeing for women worldwide.
So why all the focus and attention on menopause at the moment? Are women making a meal of the menopause, which after all is a natural life event and something all women will go through?
Whilst menopause is a natural occurrence it wasn’t so long ago that women reached old age around the time of menopause. In 1900, the average life expectancy for a woman was 59 years old, shortly after her menopause. For most of human evolution it seems women have been destined to die at the end of our reproductive lifespan. Thankfully improvements in sanitation, hygiene and housing, alongside better nutrition, and medical advances in controlling infectious diseases and healthcare, means life expectancy for women in the UK is now 83 years. With 51 the average age of menopause many women will now live a third of their lives post menopause.
Life expectancy is not the same thing as healthy life expectancy though. The typical gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy can be as much as 15 – 20 years for some women. The difference between good or deteriorating health post menopause is influenced by lifestyle factors, combined with hormonal changes at menopause which increase disease risk (including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Type II Diabetes and dementia), as well as a sprinkling of luck.
With women now living an average of 30 years post menopause our health and quality of life are not just issues for us as individuals, but has significant and far reaching consequences for the NHS, the economy, employment and our families. It’s in everyone’s interests that women die young as old as possible! In other words, women need to be supported with education, advice, resources, and treatment to enjoy a healthy and good quality of life post menopause.
There are significant things women can do to optimise health during the peri to post menopause years including
There are a lot of women making a lot of noise about menopause at the moment. We are a collection of experts bringing our own particular area of expertise to the arena.
Instrumental in extending my knowledge in this field is Jenny Burrell from Burrell Education , along with Michelle Lyons, who provide courses including 3rd Age Woman ® and Meno Strength ® for fitness professionals who work with midlife female clients.
Health professionals, scientists and researchers, are busy myth busting, clearing up the legacy of mistrust around HRT following years of misinformation and misleading media headlines. Some clinicians are setting up specialist clinics to ensure women have access to a full range of menopause related services. Then there are the activists and campaigners like Diane Danzebrink determined to improve menopause education amongst GP’s, raise awareness in the workplace, and introduce menopause education in schools.
Menopause has always been hot.
Some amazingly determined, tenacious, and well informed women have simply made menopause hotter!
Here’s to World Menopause Day, to raising awareness, and improving health and well-being for all women.