A conversation with Diane Danzebrink. It is so important that we step out of the shadows of previous generations and break the cycle of silence that surrounds the menopause.
Where are we with the menopause today?
“Things are certainly moving in the right direction compared to only 5 years ago when I began campaigning for better menopause education, care and support. We have already seen some improvements in education and the workplace and there is now a growing menopause community working hard to improve things further in education for health care professionals, support in the workplace and education for the general public.
In 2018 I started the #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign calling for better GP education, support in every workplace and menopause to be taught in secondary education as part of the RSE curriculum. I am delighted to say that education in schools was achieved in England in 2019 and added to the curriculum from September 2020. That is a huge leap forward and means that every teenager will learn the basics of menopause at school giving all girls and boys an understanding that will help them as they go through life.
There is a growing interest in understanding menopause from businesses and organisations and how employers can be supportive of those experiencing symptoms that affect their quality of life. As part of our work Menopause Support delivers educational webinars on menopause and we have seen an increase in demand for these. It is encouraging to see organisations like the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, ACAS and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine producing free menopause resources for women and employers and many unions now also have guidance for their members and representatives.
The greatest challenge is still menopause education for GPs, it is not just about ensuring that all trainee GPs have factual, evidence based education, it is also about ensuring that all currently practising GPs have up to date knowledge too. It is vital that all doctors have a good working knowledge of menopause as half of their patients will be women. The rapid spread of social media has allowed people like myself and doctors specialising in menopause to share lots of factual, evidence based information with women which empowers them to make informed choices for themselves. Unfortunately when some of those women approach their doctors with their new found knowledge they are disappointed when their doctor refuses their choices as they themselves are not up to date with current NICE guidance and that has to change.
There is still a long way to go but slowly and surely things are starting to move in the right direction. When I started speaking publicly about the woeful lack of menopause care and support it was quite a lonely place but now many more women are sharing their experiences and the media are taking a greater interest in the subject. It is no longer taboo to speak about menopause and that’s important as the more we speak about it the more we normalise it and it just becomes part of the conversation, as it should be.”
“We are led to believe [the menopause] is a very difficult time (and don’t get me wrong it can be), but that’s because none of us are prepared with good information.”
What would you say to women approaching menopause today?
“To all women approaching menopause I would say, research research research! Do as much as you can to educate yourself before menopause comes along. Find out about the possible range of symptoms, what you can do to help yourself, who can help you and the long term health implications of living the rest of your life without oestrogen. I believe the most important thing is educating yourself to make informed choices about managing your symptoms and importantly protecting your long term health.”
Which is the biggest change you would like to see in the near future? (beside the disappearance of COVID)?
“There are 3 big changes that I would like to see happening:
1) A collaboration between the government and the NHS to prioritise menopause with a public health campaign and produce a menopause information leaflet and/or a video for all women to be sent to them around the time of their 40th birthday. Something similar to the information that you receive for breast or cervical screening. Whilst I realise that 40 would not encapsulate everyone as some women will experience menopause under 40 it would mean that the vast majority would feel prepared for menopause when it does come along and they would understand the management options available to them;
2) All the stakeholders who can improve professional menopause education come together to provide quality education for ALL healthcare professionals to ensure that they have an understanding of menopause. It is so important that all those working in healthcare understand menopause as the effects can be so wide ranging for some women. This would not be difficult to do. A single one hour video narrated by a recognised menopause specialist made freely available to all health care professionals endorsed by royal colleges, the Dept of Health, NHS etc could make an enormous difference for very little cost;
3) The end of women being forced to pay for private menopause care that many struggle to afford and others put on credit cards or take out loans for. Private care should be a choice not a necessity and it is a disgrace that women are being driven into debt to protect their health and well-being when that care should be available to them via the NHS.”
Is there anything you would like to tell women?
“Educate yourself! The narrative around menopause has been consistently negative historically. We are led to believe it is a very difficult time (and don’t get me wrong it can be), but that’s because none of us are prepared with good information. With the right education, information and support women can make the right choices for them which can be very empowering and make this a positive transition. Menopause can be a great opportunity to take stock of your life so far and to consider what you would like your future life might look like. This could be the time to make long desired changes, a mid life spring clean, a chance to consider your own health and wellbeing.
Menopause is an excellent opportunity to prioritise self care, perhaps to rest, reflect and restore and to make different choices and consider the things you want to achieve, your personal or professional ambitions. It might be the time to have a total rethink, for example maybe you have a burning desire to do something completely different, this is the opportunity to map out the life you want to live going forward. If somebody had told me that menopause could be an opportunity at the bottom of my menopausal pit I would have punched them, if I had been able to summon up the energy but I promise you that it can be. I would never have believed that I would be doing some of the things that I do now. Grab the opportunity to optimise your health and wellbeing to make the post menopausal years some of the best years of your life.” ends.