I’ve been thinking a lot about the messages that women do or don’t get at menopause.
Because of this, I decided to come up with a list of things that women would love to hear at menopause (or perimenopause, if we are talking about when women experience the majority of their signs and symptoms).
I’ve divided my list into things that they might want to hear that are true, and things that they might want to hear but might not be true yet (but should be). I’d love to hear reader comments on this division and any ideas about what I’ve forgotten that should be on my lists!
Things Menopausal Women Would Love to Hear That ARE True:
1. It’s okay to be glad to be done with menstruation, the threat of pregnancy, the burdens of contraception, etc. It’s also okay to use the menopausal transition to question whether you really wanted kids, whether you had the number of kids you wanted, and whether you’ve been satisfied with your reproductive life in general. It’s normal to have all of these thoughts and feelings.
2. You’re entering the best, most free part of your life! But, it’s okay if it doesn’t feel like that yet.
3. Menopause does not mean you are old. In fact, potentially you are only half way through your life.
4. You are not alone. Lots of people have the experiences you do. You are normal!
5. I understand what you’re going through. (Or, alternatively, I don’t completely understand what you’re going through but I’m willing to listen.)
6. It’s okay to be confused and frustrated at this time of life, or in any other time of life!
7. You’ve had an entire lifetime of reproductive experiences, and this is simply one more. How you feel about menopause is probably related to how you’ve felt about other reproductive experiences over time, however. It might be helpful to reflect back on all of the reproductive experiences you’ve had to sort out how you feel about menopause.
8. Talk to other women you know. Talking about menopause helps everybody.
9. Menopause and midlife can be as significant or insignificant as you’d like them to be. For some women, these transitions mean very important things but, for others, they mean little. Whatever it means to you is okay.
10. Researchers are working hard to understand this reproductive transition more fully.
Things Menopausal Women Would Love to Hear But Might NOT Be True:
1. This is guaranteed to be your last menstrual period. You are done! (Or, a related one: You’ve already had the worst signs and symptoms. It gets better from here on out!
2. Signs and symptoms of menopause will be predictable and will not interrupt your life.
3. No one will think negatively of you or differently about you if you tell them you’re menopausal.
4. There are no major side effects to hormone therapies or any other medical treatments you might be considering.
5. Doctors will be able to help you, and will understand your signs and symptoms, if you need relief.
6. Leaky bodies are no problem! No one will care if your body does what it wants whenever it wants.
7. Partners, children, coworkers, and others will completely understand what you’re going through.
8. Middle-aged women are respected in this society, and it is truly a benefit to be at this life stage.
9. There is a clear beginning and a clear end to this transition.
10. Clinical researchers are researching the parts of menopause that you care about.
In my opinion, things that menopausal women would love to hear but might not be true speak to many of our societal norms and biases. Menopausal women are in a tough spot when it comes to norms about bodies, aging, gender, etc. Items on this second list also speak to menopausal women’s difficulties in accessing quality health care or getting safe relief from symptoms when needed. The latter list also notes the potential disconnects between research findings and women’s true needs during this transition. The first list represents what we should probably tell women and represents the kinds of supportive comments they might want to hear while going through perimenopause in particular.
I think we should contemplate both of these lists though and think about exactly how rarely women hear things off of either list. Readers, feel free to comment on, add to, or critique these lists. Most importantly, can you help me make either of these lists longer?