Team MM: When you think of the menopause what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Anaïs Gallagher: The first thing I think of is that you stop having your period. I was surprised to find out that there are so many other symptoms.
Team MM: Before your mum started the menopause did you know anything about it? Was it taught in school?
AG: I did know what the menopause was; I didn’t necessarily know what else came with it but I did know that there was a point in a woman’s life where she would become infertile. It was something that we were taught in school.
Team MM: Did you notice anything different about your mum when she was going through the menopause?
AG: I don’t think I noticed that anything was particularly different until she pointed it out; I was a bit oblivious to it. I thought she was just being moody! But when she told me it became more obvious.
Team MM: What was your reaction when she told you? Were you embarrassed?
AG: I wasn’t embarrassed because I was brought up in a household in which women’s issues were always discussed openly. It didn’t really change anything in our relationship or how I viewed her. I did think at the time though that she was making a big deal out of it as it was clearly something that happened to every woman but I suppose that I didn’t really understand just how much it had affected her.
Team MM: Is there a particular incident that sticks out in your mind?
AG: She cried at a lot of really weird things. I remember asking her what we were having for dinner and she just burst into tears. At that point, I just thought this can’t go on forever and I hoped that the treatment would kick in soon for both our sakes. Also, my mum normally wakes up really early but I noticed that she would sometimes stay in bed because she’d had a bad night’s sleep the night before and had pain [aching joints] which was very unusual for her.
Team MM: Do you think there is enough information about the menopause taught in school?
AG: This may sound a little bit controversial, but I don’t think that there should be a greater focus on the menopause in schools. I think that the level of education around sex and puberty in schools isn’t that great and so if anything there should be more of a focus on those topics. When you think about it, you leave school at 18 and for the majority of your school years you are going through puberty. So for the majority of girls, it will be at least another 30 years before they reach the menopause. Spending time talking about something that is not going to affect a teenage girl until she is in her early fifties is probably not going to interest her. The thing is we have such a short amount of time in PSHE classes and the time we have should be given to issues that directly affect young girls like teenage pregnancies and STDs. It could also be that in the future the treatments are completely different!
Team MM: Do you think of the menopause as a taboo subject?
AG: I personally don’t think that it is a taboo subject as I’ve grown up speaking freely about women’s issues but I do think that it is a taboo in general. I don’t think that it gets talked about in the media very much, maybe because it gets overshadowed by other women’s issues. There should be more information especially in the workplace for women as there is not enough awareness out there of the other symptoms like anxiety.
Team MM: There’s been a lot of talk recently about giving women space in the workplace to take time out when struggling with the menopause. What do you think about this?
AG: This will probably change when I go through it (!) but I think although obviously we have to be aware of women who are having a harder time of it, we also have to remember that women are not fragile. We are strong enough to overcome whatever is put in front of us. We can be mothers and police officers and CEOs. I mean life doesn’t stop for us. We have a lot more physical changes to cope with than men do but we do what we’ve done for generations and get on with it. I think that’s what makes us great! That’s not to take anything away from women who are struggling with it though. That’s why I’m really proud of my mum for starting her website.