Menopause is a natural change that occurs in a woman’s body when her ovaries stop producing estrogen, leading to the eventual halt of her monthly menstrual periods. It’s something that all women of a certain age expect to go through (in the US, the average age of menopause onset is 51), yet for years, it has barely been addressed in mainstream media.
Now, however, there appears to be a sea change, perhaps in part due to our aging population and an increase in prominent figures speaking up about their experiences with menopause.
In 2015, actress Angelina Jolie spoke to the Daily Telegraph about going through early menopause after having her ovaries surgically removed and concluded that she “actually love[d] being in menopause”. Having such a well-known public figure talk about menopause helped dissolve lingering shame surrounding this natural change and the aging female body; however, it’s not just celebrities who have been bringing more attention to menopause. Using the internet as their platform, many women have launched blogs to candidly discuss their experiences with menopause, ask questions, and offer advice to other women. Online writing about menopause has become so widespread that Healthline even put together a list of their Top 10 Menopause Blogs of 2016.
As the stigma of shame around menopause has lessened, more advertisements for menopause medications (usually hormone replacement therapies like Vagifem, Climara, and Premarin) have appeared online, in print publications, and on TV. This is likely in response to an increasing number of Baby Boomers going through menopause: while there were 477 million postmenopausal women worldwide in 1994, that number is projected to jump to 1.1. billion by the year 2025.
NPR notes that these advertisements can be a double-edged sword: on the one hand, they help normalize the menopause experience and raise awareness about symptoms that could be causing women discomfort, potentially encouraging those women to seek help from their healthcare provider. However, these ads may also cause women who are not experiencing disruptive symptoms to assume that they need some kind of medication to manage menopause.
Tips for Talking to Your Healthcare Provider about Menopause
Menopause is gradually becoming less stigmatized, but some women are still uncomfortable talking about this subject, especially if they’re experiencing side effects such as vaginal dryness and decreased libido. If you’re going through menopause and experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, it’s important to have a discussion with your healthcare provider rather than trying to ignore the things that are bothering you.
Some symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes) can be awkward, but it is important to communicate with your doctor.
Here are a few tips to prepare for discussing menopause with your doctor:
- Make a list of your symptoms to bring to your next doctor’s appointment.
- Make a list of all medications you are currently taking—this will help your doctor decide what treatment options are safe for you.
- If you have specific questions for your doctor, consider writing them down so you don’t forget them.
- Remember that your doctor is a trained medical professional and that menopause is a natural occurrence, not something to feel ashamed of.
- Be honest with your doctor—it’s okay to say that you feel uncomfortable or embarrassing discussing a specific symptom, as long as you’re still able to talk to your doctor.
Keep in mind that explaining to your doctor what you’re experiencing is the best way to get the appropriate treatment for your menopause symptoms.