For words you might want to know more
Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine. It's a common problem thought to affect millions of people. There are several types of urinary incontinence, including: stress incontinence – when urine leaks out at times when your bladder is under pressure; for example, when you cough or laugh.
Endometrosis is a condition resulting from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus and causing pelvic pain, especially associated with menstruation.
Stress incontinence is usually the result of the weakening of or damage to the muscles used to prevent urination, such as the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter. Urge incontinence is usually the result of overactivity of the detrusor muscles, which control the bladder.
In the past couple of years the menopause has finally become something that has entered the mainstream with many more women coming forward to publicise their symptoms and experiences. However are there too many scare-stories out there? Or is it good to prepare women for the worst-case scenario?
Women have been going through the menopause for thousands of years. However in the past two years the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause have become more widely discussed.
Davina McCall, the popular TV presenter and personality explored menopause in a candid documentary on Channel 4 entitled- 'Sex, Mind and the Menopause,' and in 2021 she followed this up with another programme focused on menopause. This show further explored more of the core issues raised in her first documentary – including menopause myths and the taboo around HRT. McCall has previously said about her experience: 'I used to think that menopause was an age thing and now realise it's a woman thing. For far too long, there's been a shroud of embarrassment, shame and fear around this topic, and this is where it stops!'
It is brilliant that this documentary proved to be a catalyst for many women to talk about their menopause experiences, but is there perhaps a danger that we focus too much on the scary stories? Does this create a culture of fear around menopause that isn't helpful for women?
Or is it in fact positive as we need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario? And what about the role of society and culture and how this plays into symptoms of menopause?
In a recent interview, Jo Fuller who has a successful podcast called 'The Merry Menopause,' said: 'The menopause is a natural hormonal re-calibration that is part of the lived experience of those who menstruate. But the way we experience it in today's world is different to the generations before us. Biologically it is the same — the decline in production of the sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone — but the way we live today has an impact on our stress levels, which exacerbates many of the symptoms we experience.'
So what Fuller is saying here is that it is not that the symptoms have become more frightening or overwhelming but that we now live in a society that can amplify symptoms and make them feel worse.
This isn't dismissing the idea however that menopause and perimenopause wasn't bad for previous generations of women!
The truth is that menopause has always existed, but the way we live as a society and the way we treat women as they age has shifted.
Our definition of ageing has changed and there is a greater acceptance of women of different age groups in the workplace.
Despite this many midlife women are dropping out of work. This is because the environment in which they are working is not set up with the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause in mind. There are no real concessions made to women who are experiencing hot flushes, insomnia, anxiety and they are expected to carry on as normal.
A study by Bupa and the CIPD revealed that close to one million menopausal women have left their job due to symptoms, leading to a drain in talent and loss of productivity for businesses.
Women are working for longer (the concept of retiring in your 60s is no longer true), the nature of that work is shifting (more WFH which can be beneficial but can also feel lonely at times), and things like increased screen time and the advent of social media (which forces women to compare themselves to others and feel stressed and worried that they have not achieved enough) - these are all lifestyle/cultural factors that impact on women experiencing menopause.
So the scary stories are useful in raising awareness but we need to push beyond these and acknowledge how society is treating women going through the journey.
We also need to publicise that menopause is not something that has suddenly come into being- it has always been around. So it might feel fashionable to talk about it today but women will continue to go through symptoms when the fashion to talk about it stops again. Also that it doesn't need to signal the end of living but can in fact signal a positive and fresh beginning. It's also important to understand that products and brands are part of a solution but not the only one. It is expected that the global menopause market size is expected to reach USD 24.4 billion by 2030.
It's clear that there is a growing market for menopause products but what about also looking at how we change work policies and ensure more women feel fully supported?
Ultimately we need to listen to what menopause and perimenopause is telling us. To push beyond the scary stories and think about the changes we need to make as a society and as an individual.
Jo Fuller further elaborates: 'For many of us, our symptoms are a wake-up call to make changes that will benefit us in our life post-menopause. Menopause doesn’t want to throw us under a bus, it wants to wake us up to the changes that we need to make to support us as we age.'
It is worth considering menopause and perimenopause as a sign to make significant changes to the context of our lives. Medical treatments are of course vital and it's important to see your GP to discuss treatments such as HRT but it is also worth considering the lifestyle factors that can amplify symptoms. To read about more about how menopause can impact on our mental health read this article.