Talking About Menopause was run by Bristol Women’s Voice in November as part of their Health Inequalities Project. It was held in the meeting rooms of the Unitarian Chapel, Bristol on a wintery afternoon over a warm cuppa and cake with 30 other inspirational women was encouraging and liberating, for you no longer felt that ‘you were on your own’. All sincerely shared their own menopausal experiences while making friends and networking which was a refreshing upside of going through what can be one of the most isolating, emotionally and physically challenging times of a woman’s life. The main opening speaker Lauren Chiren, Coach and Mentor of ‘Women of a Certain Stage’ had some good advice and sound knowledge that will help with ‘the menopausal conversation’ with your GP. Who may not be the specialist in all things and this is where events like this become so important.
Laura Gallagher, volunteer and Trustee of BWV, gave quite a shocking statistic that ‘the most likely age for a woman to die by suicide was around 51 years of age which coincides with the depletion of the hormone oestrogen’. Oestrogen is a female sex hormone produced in the ovaries that plays a vital role in a woman’s libido and mental and physical health and which depletes at the onset of the menopause process, this also being linked to depression. For some women going through the menopause can have an adverse effect on how they interact in relationships, including with other family members and with their children. It was suggested in open discussion that perhaps teaching about the menopause would be of benefit in the schools in order to educate, especially young girls, on what they may expect in the future so they can be better prepared. The added benefit of early education about the menopause would be that it may also help children to understand what their parents may be going through. Equally it can be a vulnerable time in the workplace, especially for those that work in a male dominated environment which makes it extremely difficult for women to express how they are feeling, which adds to the isolation.
To give a brief, simplistic overview of the menopause process and its 3 stages of transition: Perimenopause, or pre-menopuase (which just means before menopause) can start as early as in the 30’s but usually starts in the 40’s and can begin about 8-10 years before the menopause. The menopause is reached when for 12 consecutive menstrual cycles there have been no periods. Postmenopause is 24 to 36 months after your last period when the symptoms of the menopausal process such as hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, loss of focus, libido, mental and physical and energy loss should begin to end. The only other so far known species on our planet that also has a menopause are ocean based, namely Beluga Whales, Narwhals, Killer Whales (Orcas) and Short Finned Pilot Whales. Some believe that the reason to continue on living after the ability to reproduce ends is that older females are of great benefit to their offspring and grand-offspring. For example, their knowledge of where to find food helps groups surviveand as with us humans can impart wisdom and knowledge.’ This is something that ancient cultures have always respected about the ‘elder wise woman’.
Oestrogen is particularly important for heart and bone health, which is why Hormone Replacement Therapy comes as highly recommended by health care professionals. Lauren Chiren, who trained with The Health Coach Institute, Austin, Texas pointed out, ‘what works one month for you may not work the next and this is where keeping a diary can be of help.’ The main message of the day is to understand your own body, eat a healthy diet, sleep and exercise well, talk to your health care professionals from an informed position and to enjoy the support of other women.
Lauren Chiren encouraged all present to come and enjoy a safe free space for women to get together on the 1st Sunday of every month at Bedminster Windmill Hill City Farm between 10am to 12pm. I feel this is the way of the goddess and I was very pleased to read in the ‘Resilience Kit Bag’ booklet a quote by anthropologist Margaret Mood; ‘there is no greater power in the world than the zest of a post-menopausal woman.’
Contact BWV via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the yet to be finalised ‘Menopause Bristol infopack’ booklet. May the maiden, mother and sage be celebrated.
Marcia Walker Volunteer Reporter for Bristol Women’s Voice 24/11/2018