Blood, sweat and tears

Feb 9, 2022

If there is one topic of conversation that is guaranteed to clear a room, it is female bodily functions. In fact, that opening line has probably just sent a whole host of – forgive my assumption – male readers scurrying for the proverbial hills with their hands over their ears. Women, however, have been dealing with this for most of our lives; from the minute we get our first periods, in fact.

Who can forget those excruciating conversations with form teachers as we asked to be excused from P.E or simply to go to the loo at an awkward time? Blood rushing to our cheeks in embarrassment as it also rushed somewhere else much less desirable. Sadly, even when we finally get to bid menstruation farewell once and for all, we are faced with yet another curve ball from Mother Nature. Yes, ladies and gentlemen (still with me?), I’m talking about the menopause and popping a couple of paracetamol just doesn’t cut it.

A deluge of symptoms

Hot flushes, depression, anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, joint pains, insomnia, sneezing… the list of symptoms goes on and on. Well, up to 48, actually, and I haven’t even got on to – cue hushed tones – loss of libido or vaginal dryness… In other words, for most of us the menopause is pants.

Thanks to the likes of broadcasters Davina McCall and Mariella Frostrup, it has at least made it on to our TV screens, but when it comes to the office or – heavens forbid – the boardroom, accommodating ‘women of a certain age’ is still in its infancy. Which is pretty shocking when you think about it because, after all, roughly half the world’s population experiences symptoms and for every male CEO there is surely a mother, or a wife, or a daughter, a sister or even a friend going through hell. But, with negative attitudes towards female hormones deeply ingrained in society, perhaps not surprising. It isn’t that long ago since menopausal women were packed off to asylums to treat their hysteria.

Invisible & irrelevant

According to white paper The Invisibility Report, a survey of 2000 women aged 35-60, commissioned by advice hub, gen-m.com  41% of UK women going through the menopause feel ‘lonely, invisible, irrelevant and dispensable’. A staggering 88% of them would like workplaces better set up, with their employers willing to listen and support them.

And with a Government report on the subject confirming that the fastest growing demographic in the workplace is – yes, you’ve guessed it – menopausal women, there’s no time like the present.

A societal problem

But, this isn’t just a male problem. We women need to be brave enough to start the discussion ourselves, not only with our friends, or our sisters or our daughters but with colleagues too. Being menopausal is not a disease and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. As Sam Simister, co-founder of gen-m.com, says ‘this is a societal challenge, not a gender challenge’. By 2025, there will be 1 billion women going through the menopause globally. That’s a lot of rampaging hormones and we owe it to each other to end the taboo. Period.

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