One of the great things about living now is the willingness to talk openly about issues that were previously completely taboo, brushed under the hypothetical carpet and only whispered about if people were actually forced to. As a result, there was so much dis-information or no information at all, leaving people bewildered and in many cases frightened and isolated.
We are thinking of issues such as sexual orientation/gender, periods, mental health, dementia and one thing in particular that affects 50% of the population- the menopause.
Whilst strictly speaking not a clinical negligence issue, which we would normally be writing about, it is a women’s health issue and there is discussion now about how these are not always perhaps taken as seriously as they could be. Thus, this leads to poor or late treatment, or in many cases no treatment and then it can turn into a clinical negligence issue. We’d rather this was avoided where possible.
The main point seems to be the failure to recognise the menopause as not an illness, or “all in the mind”, but a natural part of women’s lives. Yet it’s effects often go unheeded. Women are just expected to “get on with it” and indeed many do just that, but not without a struggle- an unnecessary struggle sometimes.
Labour M.P. Carolyn Harris, along with women campaigning for themselves, have sought to raise the profile of this life event, Carolyn through a Private Members Bill brought to the House of Commons at the end of October this year. Even if the Bill does not become law, it will have raised awareness of the issue and how it affects women.
Carolyn’s Bill would remove prescription charges for hormone replacement therapy (HRT); this is currently the case in Northern Ireland and Scotland and would bind the Government to producing a menopause strategy. While there is some debate over the use of HRT (we won’t get into that here) and we stress women MUST take medical advice on this, there is no doubt that it can be a relatively simple way to relieve menopausal symptoms for many women. This can in turn allow them to carry on working if they want to and to enjoy life and leisure activities to the full during the menopausal years.
Carolyn thinks that medical students, doctors and in particular GP’s should receive more training about the menopause and what can be done to help women who often suffer very severe and constraining symptoms. It does come to an end, honest, but the journey there can be extremely unpleasant for some women. But it doesn’t have to be like that and help should be more readily to hand.
It’s not just about dispensing medication. It’s also about taking women’s specific health issues seriously and various agencies, including employers, acknowledging that there can be real difficulties with the menopause and being willing to adjust to accommodate those difficulties.
There is lots of information on our friend the internet; this is just one site: https://www.nhsemployers.org/articles/menopause-and-workplace
Women can be helped by having easy access to practical advice on diet, exercise, mental health, lifestyle and even more comfortable clothing! We don’t want to feel as if we’re ill, we’re not; we don’t want to be ridiculed, ostracised or the butt of jokes for being in what is a natural phase of life. We just want some help coping with it BEFORE it becomes a real problem.
But basically-talk about it. Get it out in the open. Don’t suffer due to ignorance or embarrassment. There’ll be lots of other women thanking you for doing so.