While menopause is a natural part of a woman’s reproductive life, society often places the subject on an unspoken list of taboo topics not to be discussed. This stigma of menopause can interfere with a woman’s experience of this process, making it more painful, more difficult, and more frightening or even embarrassing than it ever should be. While some of the symptoms may be more commonly known, such as the absence of the menstrual period, others are less widely understood and may leave women feeling unprepared, with symptoms appearing more pronounced and interfering with their quality of life. This stigma is unnecessary and sets back the progress of women moving forward, possibly making this time in a woman’s life worse than it needs to be.
How the Stigma of Menopause Harms Women
It may not seem that a mere stigma can cause harm, but that’s just not the case. One way that the stigma of menopause causes harm to women can be found in the fact that one in every five women going through this process considers quitting their job or giving up their career, due to the complex misunderstanding that comes along with this time of life. Menopause is falsely associated with diminished mental stability and as just something to “deal with.” Because of this, female workers tend to not receive the support and understanding from employers as they traverse the many changes taking place in their minds and body.
There are other falsehoods that are entwined with the stigma of menopause that compromise the information getting to the women who need it. When seeking help, studies have found that many women have felt some degree of shame when reaching out for treatment and help for symptoms that interfere with their enjoyment of daily life. For men, often they have medical providers who share information on male hormonal changes, providing prescriptions and advice when needed. While on the other hand, it’s often not so simple when a woman in menopause is attempting to get access to healthcare for the various psychological and physical changes they are going through. Whether this is due to a mid-life double standard at play or the misconception that women should just deal with their symptoms since menopause is a stage of life is unknown, but is troublesome for many, either way.
Abolishing the Stigma Women Face During Menopause
Menopause is not taboo, it is not some “forbidden fruit” that should need to be kept hidden. What it is, is a completely natural occurrence for half the planet’s population. Doctors should be asking their female patients about symptoms, particularly after age 40. They need to address menstrual changes and other early signs that indicate that menopause may be forthcoming, making this topic one that becomes comfortable and familiar in the medical setting.
Contrary to some beliefs, menopausal women can be trusted and are not erratic. Emotional fluctuations due to hormonal shifts are completely common and are one of the many symptoms women address when navigating the stages of menopause. And while all women experience menopause, no two women share the exact symptoms for the same length of time. To help break the cycle of shaming, and building a stigma around menopause, sharing experiences can be empowering while helping other women just embarking on the journey. Support from coworkers and employers can help women manage their symptoms in the workplace and open discussion without aversion can help break this stigma to allow women to be open and accepting of the changes without feeling the need to hide their struggles or symptoms.
If there are questions to be asked, problems to be solved, or symptoms to be treated, let’s make sure the doors to those conversations are always open.