Written by: Dr. Alexandra Matias
Youth seems to last forever. We agree that to be young is glamorous and pleasant. We like to talk about the empowerment of being young and we share the good experiences.
Menopause won't cease to exist and to age can indeed be seriously withering and symptomatic. Aging is something we don´t like to talk about and we tend to hide the discomfort and the stigma.
But, please, no more secrets; no more shame, no more silence.
It is inevitable: one hundred percent of humans born with ovaries will go through menopause, if they live long enough. Less than 10% of them will get the help they need to manage this bumpy transition.
Most women don’t know that their nasty symptoms are related to hormonal changes, namely by the decay of oestrogen levels when ovaries stop their function. This hormonal drop may have serious consequences. For example, women aged 45-64 die by suicide at a higher rate than any other group of women, in part due to these hormonal shifts.
Most women aren’t educated about their bodies, so they often don’t have the language to express what they’re feeling, nor are they sure who to ask. Because it’s a “secret” and stigmatized, it’s not taught at schools, mothers don’t talk to daughters, friends don’t share stories, women are even reluctant to bring up their issues with their doctors. As a gynaecologist, most of the time, I am the one asking for the unpleasant symptoms or changes related to menopause that were shortly dismissed as “part of it” and believed unsolvable. Even worse, because it’s not taught or it´s given little attention at medical schools, doctors are poorly informed about it and discard menopause symptoms as inevitable and part of life. Women are suffering needlessly.
Because only when women are able to talk about their issues, will they truly have the support they need to thrive in this rich, vibrant, sexy and challenging second half of life.
With our blog I will be working to make menopause as normal a part of conversation as arthritis, as unthreatening as talking about needing new glasses, as common as discussing your skin care regimen. I will do my best to answer the most common challenges women are facing during this new phase. What causes hot flashes? How can we prevent or cure osteoporosis or sarcopenia? How can we help women sleep through the night? How can we improve sexual drawbacks?
Turns out that this transition is rather demanding. These aging women are in great need. They need help with vaginal dryness, absolutely, but also help with weight gain, crappy sleep, joint pain, heavy and irregular periods, foggy brain, hot flashes, rage, anxiety and depression, head hair loss, facial hair gain, and so on. I am always overwhelmed by this endless list of symptoms, more so because I endured them myself.
Hot flashes are unpleasant, but how much worse are they because you’re supposed to hide them, because they’re embarrassing, because they make you look old and crony and out of control of your own body? If they were “normal,” we could just open a window and carry on rather than trying to flee to the bathroom and hoping we have an extra shirt. If hot flashes weren't seen as “normal,” maybe scientists would have done more research and have more options to manage them by now.
How could we begin to tackle so much? I already have an answer: let´s talk, let´s start the conversation now. Menopause would be so much less impactful if it were part of normal, everyday, shame-free conversation.
Fortunately, there are more and more amazing innovations out there to help women sleep, manage symptoms, learn how to protect their bones, brains, and hearts from the loss of oestrogen, improve their skin and vagina, and therefore enter this second half of their lives healthy, vibrant, informed, empowered, and unashamed.