Menopause Sucks. The Bigger Discussion is How No One Talks About It AND We Aren’t Taught it in Sex-Ed
Menopause, for many of us happens naturally. Generally, when the body is physically ready to move on to the next stage of life, somewhere between the ages of 45 to 55, a woman will begin the journey into Perimenopause subsequently Menopause.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) defines menopause as “the point in time when a woman has had no menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.” But that alone, doesn’t accurately describe what goes on to a woman’s body, overall health and day-to-day life.
Regularly referred to as “the change of life” – Menopause is significant in a woman’s life. So, while conversations around puberty, periods, pregnancy, giving birth and other sexual health topics have become socially acceptable, menopause is still left out. Why? Menopause affects us all.
I’ve read too many horror stories online from women who’ve struggled in silence, their doctors unaware how to treat their symptoms – often times prescribing them anti-depressants. In almost all stories, the suffering gets shrugged off and downplayed.
Menopause can have just the absolute worst symptoms. Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, weight gain, incontinence, so peeing yourself – just to name a few.
The worst part though was getting blindsided. And the lack of support and empathy.
In Canada, we don’t teach about menopause in sexual health. Currently the curriculum in all provinces doesn’t even mention the M word. With all the updates over the years to include expanding and evolving terms and statuses, there’s still no mention of what I’d call some of the worst years of my life.
Experiences vary in severity and duration. Those who transition well have every right to brag. We can all hope to go through the big change with ease and grace but sometimes that’s not always possible.
Did You Know?
There are 3 types of Menopause.
Some Menopause Symptoms
Hot Flashes, Weight Gain, Night Sweats, Tiredness, Insomnia, Irritability, Depression, Irregular Periods, Loss of Sex Drive, Vaginal Dryness, Hair Loss, Difficulty Concentrating, Memory Loss, Dizziness, Incontinence, Bloating, Allergies, Brittle Nails, Body Odor Changes, Irregular Heartbeat, Anxiety, Breast Pain, Headaches, Joint Pain, Sensation of Electric Shocks, Digestive Issues, Gum Problems, Muscle Tension, Itchy Skin, Dry Skin, Tingly Limbs, etc.
My No Mercy Menopause
I had Surgical Menopause. Shortly after a hysterectomy in my mid-thirties, I fell gracelessly into full-on menopause. After using the depo shot, my reproductive health suffered immensely. Ultimately the damage left me with endometriosis, adenomyosis and a retroverted uterus that was resting on my bowel. I needed a hysterectomy. No one said a thing about the risk of premature menopause, let alone what I might experience.
Side Note Surgical menopause is very different than natural menopause. There's no easing in or gradual change. Instead, it's very abrupt, like the body goes into shock over the sudden loss of hormones and has no idea what to do. Symptoms can be more severe with surgical menopause, for some incapacitating.
The hot flashes and night sweats were a nightmare. Everyday. All day. All night. For years. Drenched one minute, teeth chattering freezing cold the next. On repeat. Over and over. The insomnia and inability to get restorative sleep has come with great consequence. I haven’t been able to sleep properly since it started, so almost a decade now. The joint pain and muscle tension is debilitating. Since the Menopause Mack truck ran me off the road, I experience painful flare ups frequently. I also have Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Bone Spurs, Degenerative Disc Disease and Cervical Spondylosis now so I’m sure that contributes.
The random hairs sprouting, incontinence (sooo awful), brain fog, fatigue, super thinning dry skin, vaginal dryness, tingly limbs, digestive troubles, 4 pant size up bloating, dizziness, memory loss, difficultly concentrating and weight gain – menopause has not been kind to me.
I tried Hormone Replacement Therapy, desperate for relief. I tried both synthetic and bioidentical. Synthetic went sideways fast; I should have known it would with my intolerance to synthetic hormones in birth controls in the past. With Bioidentical Hormones I had better results but it didn’t last.
I’ve tried all kinds of menopause-support supplements too. Black Cohosh, Flax Seed, Calcium, Red Clover, Vitamin D, Ginseng, I even tried compounded DHEA.
My family physician is a man with noticeably no training in menopause, so he’s been no help with this stuff. He tried prescribing antidepressants to me too but I didn’t bite. Literally zero knowledge. Zero support, guidance or compassion.
Seven Years Plus
It took 7 years for things to ease up. I still experience some symptoms but not like I used to, thankfully. What I know from my experience is that a heads up would have gone a long way, furthermore we really need to include menopause in the curriculum of not only the school-aged programs but also all PhD and doctorate programs. Because without it, women will continue to get blindsided and experience hell without any help.
The #MakeMenopauseMatter Petition
Sign the Make Menopause Matter in Healthcare, Employment and Education petition here: (currently 181,267 signatures)
Two Years Ago, UK Added Menopause to Their Curriculum
Read about how the UK added menopause to their curriculum in the The Importance of Teaching About the Menopause via Independent Nurse:
In Canada, We Don’t Talk About Menopause
In 2020, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights published a report called The State of Sex-Ed in Canada. Eighty-two pages and not one mention of menopause. See for yourself:
“Right now, we see sex-ed in Canada offering a barebone picture of sexual health and wellness, since the learning objectives related to sexual behaviours and sexuality are either narrow or extremely vague, and key content is missing. In fact, in many instances, sex is barely mentioned, and one could conclude that sexual wellness is merely the absence of STIs.”
“Currently, the mandated sex-ed content young people are offered is not comprehensive and gender sensitive, does not uphold all students’ human rights, and fails to offer a balanced view of sexuality. While there is excellent sex-ed happening in some communities and significant strides made towards modernizing sex-ed, in most cases, lessons present a superficial picture of human sexuality and sexual health. A common thread is that sexual health is taught from a fear-based perspective and avoids subjects seen as controversial.”
“Canada is not meeting its human rights obligations when allowing provincial and territorial governments to provide sub-standard, outdated, inconsistent, and sometimes inaccurate sex-ed.”
References and Resources
Better Help, 31 Most Common Menopause Symptoms
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, The State of Sex-Ed in Canada
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, Menopause & U website
Nova Scotia Healthy Development, Sexual Health