Normalizing Sex

Nobody has ever told me about menopause – Davina McCall’s documentary filled in the gaps

Nobody ever really tells you about the menopause the way they do other things. When I was about 10, for example, my mom showed me a book with a shiny cover that she’d bought especially for the occasion, and told me that I’d probably get periods at some point – the next year, when Aunt Flo came to town, I was surprised and a bit scared, but not completely clueless. And while my school’s sex education left a lot to be desired, I still left at 16 with a basic knowledge of what went where (however, of course, sex between same sex partners was swept under the science lab table).

As far as I’m aware, though, there’s no teacher, magic fairy, or similar who sits a woman down on her 45th birthday and whispers in her ear about hormones, brain fog, and sweating – leaving many to deal with the debilitating symptoms of menopause alone, often without knowing what is happening to them.

That’s why Davina McCall’s 2021 documentary Sex, Myths and the Menopause felt like such a watershed. McCall’s candid presenting style and her accessible myth-busting around HRT was genuinely useful, and the shame with which many women regarded their own menopause symptoms, in a culture obsessed with youth and fertility, fell away somewhat. Menopause was discussed in Parliament, and the Government implemented an exemption on the repeat prescription fee for HRT.

When I watched Sex, Myths and the Menopause, it left me feeling both shocked – at 28, I’m a grown woman: why didn’t I know about so much of the apparent hell that awaits me, and that already affects some of my peers? – and grateful that, at least, someone had now bothered to finally give it to me straight.

The film was so successful that Channel 4 and McCall made a follow-up. Sex, Mind and the Menopause focused more closely on the mental health effects of the menopause than its predecessor, and this time, Channel 4 commissioned a survey of 4,000 women aged between 45 and 55. The findings were grim.

Forty four per cent of women reported that menopause affected their ability to do their jobs, eight in 10 said it affected their sleep, and seven in 10 reported anxiety and depression, with the same figure experiencing “brain fog” symptoms like memory loss (McCall said that when this happened to her, it was so bad that she assumed she had early onset dementia). These are shocking statistics which, offered alone, would feel quite alarming, but Sex, Mind and the Menopause couches them in science which offers hope both for women who are going through the menopause, and who will experience it later in life.

More on TV Reviews

Health conditions which affect women and people with vaginas are woefully under-researched (indeed, my own experience in this area can attest to this – it took six years of reporting abnormal pain to doctors for me to be diagnosed with the chronic condition vulvodynia, and another year to get the appropriate physiotherapy; to this day, some medical professionals I encounter don’t know what it is), but menopause is the most egregious considering its inevitability.

American scientists Dr Lisa Mosconi and Dr Roberta Diaz Brinton wanted to change this when they undertook experimental observations of the brain functions of women in menopause. They discovered that not only can taking HRT during the menopause – not afterwards – help elide the mental effects, but it can also help women later in life, decreasing risks of illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

As someone for whom the menopause one day awaits, and whose own personal experiences have not always led me to feel particularly hopeful about receiving prompt help from the medical establishment, Sex, Mind and the Menopause was both sobering and a relief.

Women told stories of being fired from their jobs and feeling suicidal as a result of their experiences. But they also spoke about the ways in which even feeling able to openly discuss menopause has changed their lives and their perspectives. If this willingness to talk is met by more changes in treatment and policy, perhaps menopause will not feel like a mystery in future.

Davina McCall: Sex, Mind and the Menopause is streaming on All 4

Read the original article here

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Skip to content