Menopause – why can we not own up?

Menopause news; women who go through the change early are more at risk of a brain aneurysm (when an abnormal bulge in artery bursts, cuasing loss of blood). Half of those who suffer a burst artery in the brain are likely to die, and one in five is severely disabled, says a Press Association report.

Madonna, <em>Under the Scope</em>, Menopause

Madonna, 53, menopausal poster woman?

US scientists writing in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery found that both later menopause and use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) protected against cerebral aneurysm. Each successive four year increase in the age at which a woman went through the menopause lessened the risk by around 21 per cent, while HRT reduced the risk by 77 per cent.

More for women to agonise about: do we, don’t we, do we, dont we… take the HRT?

What would help would be more women of the changing years – 45-55 – talking honestly about what is happening. Just as the theatrical fear of not revealing one’s age (as it can kill a career – especially at the BBC) is spreading down into wider female working society, so too is it impossible to read regularly about any well known women going through menopause. Quite honestly, it is as though every famous female is miraculously fertile until sixty.

Given that the average Western women goes through menopause at 51, beginning with the peri-menopausal years from 45 onwards (the first hot sweats, mood swings, hair loss, adult acne, loss of libido, insomnia, joint aches, urinary tract infections etc etc etc) it is as inconceivable that most women are not in menopause in their late forties/early fifties as the myth that so many are having their first children naturally. Yes, that includes you, Geena Davis, Holly Hunter and Beverley d’Angelo (twins at 47, 47, and 49).

So the cult of the older mother and older menopausee are one and the same – the desperation to stay young and fertile. To be desirable – and therefore useful.

Well,  I don’t want to ‘grow old gracefully’, I just want to keep growing. If I stay interesting (to me as much as to you) that’s useful enough.

Our generation of women have to embrace the menopause as much as Germaine Greer’s did. But we have moved on and need to employ our post-feminism education not to bicker over the legitimacy of treating the symptoms – which are awful. But to start a new debate over how we own up to it. And then own it.

I am exhausted with the cult of prolonged  fecundity.

It doesn’t serve us now, and it’s partly to blame for the huge rise in IVF. Not to mention the fixation on plastic surgery to get overly large bottoms and boobs – the tribal curves of the fertile woman – allied to the stick thin legs, arms and waists of the Barbie.  Our daughters are being sold the lie of eternal youth; goodness knows what that will do to them. I suspect many will end up childless and disappointed.

Yet, 21st-century women have so much to celebrate. We live twice as long as we did.

The modern menopause is now not the end, but the half time call.  It should be a fabulous time to hoist the Me Me Me flag, and decide where the next half goes. Not to linger in denial, baby pink lipstick, and faux baby-making youth.

Let’s be loud and proud that we get two lives.

So starting with me: Yes, perimenopausal since  41. Six years later, and I am in chemical menopause awaiting a hysterectomy, and so by October this year, I will be starting Lambert 2.0.

I intend to share the journey on here (although not to boredom point). The sweats (dreaful), the insomnia (caused by the sweats), the crumbling nails.  But also, the good stuff. I feel oestrogen has controlled me for 30 years, making me bloated and moody. I’m looking forwards to being free of all that.

I’m a huge supporter of women’s right to take HRT and not be scared off it.

I have taken it myself already (up until six months ago). But  now, having ditched oestrogen so painfully (did I mention the sweats), I am not sure I want to pump my body full again.

So that takes me back to the latest research on HRT – should I, should you take it to prevent aneurysms? Or is lifestyle measures as important?

I hope someone medical will leave their views below – but I’d like to know what you think too – are you ready to be open about the menopause – or is it still a taboo too far?

About the Author

Victoria Lambert has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and specialises in health and medical matters. She writes for the Telegraph, the Times, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Mail and the Mail on Sunday. She contributes to Saga, Geographical and First Eleven magazines – where she is the agony aunt.

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