Why is everyone suddenly talking about the menopause?
From the symptoms of menopause to how long it lasts, we look at why everyone’s talking about menopause.
Menopause is moving from being a subject that’s swept under the carpet, to one where women are no longer staying quiet about their symptoms and how they are coping. So, what has changed? And why is everyone suddenly talking about menopause?
Most recently, we can thank Davina McCall’s Sex, Myths and the Menopause documentary that aired on Channel 4. This emotional and powerful documentary shone a light on the impact that menopause has on lives every day. Davina highlighted the effect hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had on her and made a heartfelt call for change. As a result, the Scottish government is in discussions to reconsider its stance on HRT.
These high profile and national conversations are helping to break down the barriers and taboos around menopause, encouraging people to come together and share their experiences.
In our September 2021 Menopause Survey of over 500 women, participants said they felt:
- Angry (25%)
- Sad (37%)
- Out of control (39%)
- Up and down (73%)
Even when experiencing symptoms, only 41.1% of women were found to discuss it with friends, 36.7% with a GP Nurse, and a shocking 0.6% of women would speak to their employer about it .
Women in their 40s and 50s are much more likely to have careers and some economic independence. And according to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM), nearly 80% of menopausal women are in work .
Menopause can be a challenging time for many women, both physically and emotionally, and talking about it can help to stay better informed about the symptoms and how to manage them.
What is menopause?
Menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally . A diagnosis of menopause usually comes after you have stopped experiencing periods for 12 months or more.
Typically, women experience menopause in their early 50s, although some women will be younger, and some older. However, many women are shocked to realise that the process starts much earlier than that – this period is known as perimenopause. Perimenopause can last from a few months to 10 years but is on average around four years.
Because symptoms can appear in the early to mid-40s, many women don't attribute them to perimenopause and get worried that there may be something wrong with them. You can read more about perimenopause in our perimenopause – why we need to talk about it blog.
If you are experiencing symptoms that you may think are attributed to menopause or perimenopause, we recommend either testing yourself or seeking advice from your GP.
Is there a test for menopause?
Menopause happens due to a change in hormones, therefore a simple Menopause Blood Test to measure these hormones can help determine whether menopause is the cause of any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Hormones that a menopause blood test checks include:
- FSH – your follicle-stimulating hormone rises to stimulate egg production, your levels of FSH can indicate whether you are ovulating or not.
- LH – your luteinising hormone governs your menstrual cycle, if it is higher than average this can also indicate you are going through menopause.
- Oestradiol – this female steroid hormone is produced in the ovaries and will fall as you get closer to menopause.
- Thyroid – often your thyroid biomarkers will also be checked due to symptoms being similar.
Your GP is likely to offer you a menopause blood test if you are under the age of 45 and experiencing symptoms . However, as your hormones can fluctuate significantly in the years before menopause, you may not get a reliable result and it is best to test more than once to see if there is an ongoing trend.
Also, even if you are perimenopausal, this does not always mean you can’t get pregnant. So, it is recommended you continue to use contraceptives until you have stopped having periods for more than a year.
Our Menopause Blood Test is useful if you are experiencing symptoms of menopause and it can help to rule out other conditions, like a thyroid disorder, which share similar symptoms.
Menopause and thyroid – how are they linked?
Women are ten times more likely to suffer from thyroid disease than men and often symptoms of thyroid disease can be similar to postmenopausal symptoms . It is not unheard of for symptoms of a thyroid disorder to be incorrectly attributed to menopause or stress .
Symptoms of menopause and thyroid-related conditions include:
- Unexplained changes in weight
- Excess sweating
- Heat or cold intolerance
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
As these two conditions are so intertwined, and symptoms are so similar, thyroid biomarkers are often checked alongside FSH, LH, and oestradiol during a blood test.
You can check your thyroid function and female hormones with our Menopause Blood Test.
You can also read more on thyroid-related conditions in our thyroid guide.
How is menopause managed?
Symptoms of menopause can range from mild to severe. Women who only experience mild symptoms may transition through menopause without needing any help, whereas women who experience more pronounced symptoms may be offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT aims to restore hormones to more youthful levels and can alleviate common symptoms.
There are also lifestyle changes that can be made to help alleviate some symptoms – you can read about these in our all you need to know about the menopause blog.
Why should we talk about menopause?
Menopause is a natural process. Being able to talk openly about symptoms, having an understanding and accommodating workplace, and getting support if you need it, are all essential factors in coping with the physical and mental changes that accompany menopause.
This generation of menopausal women has pioneered new attitudes by removing stigma, raising awareness, and having their voices heard.
- Written evidence from Health and Her 2022. [online] Available at: <https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/39340/pdf/> [Accessed 4 May 2022].
- Menopause in the Workplace | Henpicked. 2022. Menopause and work: why it's so important. [online] Available at: <https://menopauseintheworkplace.co.uk/menopause-at-work/menopause-and-work-its-important/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Faculty%20of,retirement%20ages%20are%20now%2068.> [Accessed 4 May 2022].
- nhs.uk. 2022. Menopause. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/> [Accessed 4 May 2022].
- British Thyroid Foundation. 2022. Thyroid and menopause. [online] Available at: <https://www.btf-thyroid.org/thyroid-and-menopause> [Accessed 4 May 2022].