MILWAUKEE, CC BY-SA 4.0
Oprah Winfrey suggests menopause is a moment for women to reinvent themselves
Menopause is having a moment. While often historically seen as a ‘taboo’ women's health issue, according to SATC star Kim Cattrall, menopause is becoming a more open topic, and one that is also being addressed in the workplace.
Indeed, high profile, empowering women such as Michelle Obama, Emma Thompson and Oprah Winfrey are all candidly discussing the subject, with common themes emerging; while menopause has previously been seen as an off-limits conversation piece, times are changing for the better.
Changing the dialogue
When discussing the topic on her wellness website Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow acknowledged that menopause ‘gets a really bad rap and needs rebranding.”
Likewise, in an interview with Cosmopolitan, Kim Cattrall suggested that women are often worried about their femininity and desirability, and what will come in the next part of life.
“I think one of the reasons why it’s so taboo is because we don’t talk about it—it’s too frightening even to talk to a doctor about it,” she commented.
However, in a 2017 interview with People magazine, Gillian Anderson contemplated a more freethinking era surrounding the topic. “How wonderful would it be if we could get to a place where we are able to have these conversations openly and without shame,” she pondered.
Menopause symptoms can affect day-to-day life
So what is menopause and what progress has been made since Gillian’s more open-minded hope for the future?
The term menopause literally means stopping periods. ‘Meno’ refers to menstruation and ‘pause’ means to stop. The medical definition of menopause is when one year has passed since your last period. Women's health company Theramex explains the difference between perimenopause and postmenopause here.
While symptoms differ from woman to woman, Everyday Health chronicled these as including hot flushes and night sweats; slowed metabolism and weight gain, depression, anxiety and mood swings; insomnia and sleep disruptions; hair loss and brittle nails; dysfunction and low libido; bone loss and osteoporosis risk; dry skin eyes and mouth; memory loss. All these aspects can of course affect day-to-day life for women.
If you’re experiencing these, you’re in good company. Detailing her menopause journey in her own podcast, Michelle Obama said, “I experienced the night sweats, even in my 30s, and when you think of the other symptoms that come along, just hot flashes, I mean, I had a few before I started taking hormones.”
Impacting women in the workplace
The impact of menopausal symptoms also extends into the workplace, affecting female employees. A recent study on menopause by Circle In found that ‘there is a culture of ignorance and isolation around menopause in the workplace, and a glaring lack of support for employees and their managers.’
Some 83% of study participants said their work was negatively affected, over half (58%) of respondents that experienced menopause said that managing work during their menopausal transition was 'challenging,’ while 48% of all respondents struggled with their drop in confidence at work, and almost as many (46%) felt stressed by having to hide their experience.
Menopause is being more openly discussed
However, there has been advancements surrounding menopause, and women are clearly becoming more empowered to discuss the subject in both their personal and professional lives.
Research from consultancy firm Menopause Experts has shown that during UK tribunals, menopause was cited 116 times in the first half of 2021, compared to just five cases in the first nine months of 2018.
Likewise, media reporting on the issue has increased, and global celebrities are calling for more open discussions and advocating for the positives of the life stage. While Kim Cattrall acknowledged that going through menopause can be confusing and isolating, she is also resoundingly optimistic. “It’s as natural as having a child—it really is; it’s part of life. Physically, it’s part of how we’re made; hormonally, it’s how we’re constructed; chemically, it’s how we work,” she explains.
SATC co-star Cynthia Nixon agrees. Speaking to Stella Magazine, she noted that ‘the freedom that comes from no longer being fertile is huge.”
And it’s that freedom that will continue to enable women to maintain an open dialogue about menopause, because according to Oprah, menopause can certinaly be used as a moment of self-reinvention.
Speaking in an interview with her namesake magazine, she comments, “So many women I’ve talked to see menopause as a blessing. I’ve discovered that this is your moment to reinvent yourself after years of focusing on the needs of everyone else.”