Time to change ‘the change’ – Part 1.

August 16 2019

Words by

Rebekah Brown



Powder Room conversations about the menopause

In August we invited 50 women across the UK to anonymously share their individual experiences of the menopause. How did the different bio-chemical phases make them feel? Where did they go for help? What worked? What didn’t? And what do they want from the market that they can’t find today?

Women documented their experiences with brutal honesty and a generous dose of gallows humour! But the results were sobering. The picture painted was of an invisible community struggling to navigate a life-stage that lasts, typically, 8-10 years, alone. 

Below, in the first of a series of insight posts, is a little of what we learned;

‘I feel like I’m losing my mind sometimes’.

Source: MPowder anonymous survey participant, August 2019

25% of our Powder Room community wrote of the sense of a loss of control; of heightened anxiety around everyday tasks or professional situations. Some flagged untreated depression. 

Suicide rates for women reach their peak at 51, right in the middle of the menopause. Much of the distress we feel can be attributed to the lack of awareness that the symptoms are attributable rather than random. That measures can help. And that the phase will pass. Just 1 in 100 women find the menopause ‘easy’. For the rest of us, it can be a mix of incredible clarity, crippling insecurity, energy, fatigue, anger and love. Hormones have a huge impact on our brains. We will all, regardless of symptoms, lack oestrogen at this stage of life. It is critical that women are made aware of the signs of the menopause before they experience them. And that options are better researched and presented to women. The medical profession needs to become better informed about the signs too. Today 66% of women entering the menopause are given antidepressants instead of being offered alternatives. Food can play a critical role in supporting brain health and mental wellness. As can practices like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and increased exercise. But knowing ‘why’ you’re feeling the way you do is the place to start. And it seems that few of us are aware of what to expect;

Just 34% of our survey participants recognised key menopausal symptoms when they first experienced them.

Source: MPowder marketplace survey, August 2019

Apart from the lazy cultural references about murderous menopausal women frantically opening fridge doors to ease hot flashes, we have few signpost as we enter the third significant biological transition of our lives. In her book, Menopause Confidential, New York gynaecologist Tara Allmen writes;

‘We spend a lot of time in the health care profession teaching women how not to get pregnant, then we teach them how the have babies, and possibly we teach them how to breastfeed. But that is where the lectures end’. 

We learn about menstruation and fertility alongside our male classmates which means there is a level of general knowledge that we all share as a society. But the menopause is still cloaked in mystery. And has a woeful lack of attention in the medical profession. Recent research showed that just 20% of gynaecological post doctorate syllabi cover the menopause. 

‘I think one of the challenges is you don’t start looking or thinking about it until you’re in it and then you’re not quite sure what is happening. There should be much earlier education and awareness shared through your GPs’.

Source: MPowder anonymous survey participant, August 2019

Perhaps as a result, under 50% of our participants would look to their doctors for advice about the menopause today. Instead they rely on friends and family; their own Powder Rooms, where advice is handed down. But what if you don’t know how to start the conversation? What if it feels like you’re first?

In part 2 we will look specifically at the start of the menopause journey; the key symptoms associated with the peri-menopause and how our participants experienced it. 

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