World Menopause Day: Covering lost ground to spreading awareness
Menopause is a phase of every woman’s life, however, still there is prevalent ignorance surrounding the subject. October 18 is observed as World Menopause Day around the world. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of menopause and the support options available for improving health and well-being.
There are many unexplored aspects to menopause that need to be talked about, discussed-upon, and addressed to ensure that women do not suffer in silence and that menopause doesn’t take a toll on their mental, physical or psychological health.
To identify the lesser-known aspects of menopause, The Statesman had a conversation with Swathi Kulkarni, co-founder, and CEO, of Elda Health, a platform enabling women to understand their health issues, identify precautionary measures, gain access to meaningful diagnosis, and above all
prioritize their own health.
Why is Menopause treated as an afterthought in our country?
In our country, for generations, the focus has been on cultural milestones that we accomplish as women. Puberty and pregnancy are key milestones and hence are celebrated and supported not just by the family, but by society at large. Menopause marks the end of a reproductive era in the women’s life and is still considered a setback of sorts. In our culture, where aging is not connected with wisdom, but rather a loss of youth or womanhood, menopause has always been ignored.
Is enough being done in our country for women over 40? If not then why, does the fact that societal taboo around conversations about menopause leads to this state of apathy?
A largely patriarchal society where men are the decision-makers, and the overall lack of awareness of midlife concerns has led to this apathy. There is hardly any focus on women over 40; be it at home or at work. Apathy looms across their families as well as providers, who should take care of menopausal women. There are very few medical/psychological specialists to deal with the effects of menopause in our country. Also, as a developing nation, our focuses is largely on maternal & infant mortality, hence menopause is yet to become a health priority.
Why are women in our country not aware of the symptoms of menopause? In 2022 why is it imperative for Indian women to start opening up about their issues?
Menopause awareness has been a challenge for time immemorial. Women in the previous generations suffered silently and alone. It was considered a part and parcel of their lives. Voice of a woman was never strong enough to be heard until it was a chronic or fatal condition. Earlier, women didn’t even know what hot flashes meant, but experienced them. Gynecologists reinforced this is normal and one should endure it for the 3-10 years of this phase.
There are families that are more supportive and there is a much larger life expectancy in such woman. As women, we spend 1/3rd of our lives in menopause and I don’t see why one wouldn’t ensure we are healthy and happy during this phase. It is imperative that partners, children, extended family as well as companies support women to ensure they are successful in every role they play. The corporate houses need to ensure more open conversations around menopause and extend support to prevent skilled women from dropping out of their careers during their midlife.
What can be done to eradicate the fear associated with Menopause?
There is taboo, more than fear about menopause. Women struggle with the fear of being less feminine, no longer young, and the inability to bear children. These are some traits that defined them throughout as women. They are unfortunately less aware and prepared for the myriad of metabolic issues that hit them during this phase.
There is a need for large-scale awareness programs, and workshops around menopause, its symptoms, and the repercussions of not treating them. Women should be educated about how beautiful this phase could be if they took care of their lifestyle – physical and mental health. It is also of utmost importance to educate men and other family members. Companies and enterprises should hold awareness workshops for their men and women employees as well as provide holistic programs for menopausal women as a part of their employee benefits programs. There is also a critical role for media and public policy to play in this space.
In some cases, Menopause is happening at a younger age, what are the reasons for it, and is there any treatment for it?
Early menopause can occur due to multiple reasons – surgery that removes ovaries or uterus, chemotherapy (radiation), family history of early menopause, some genetic concerns, etc. It is important for pre-mature menopausal women to take Hormone Replacement Therapy to avoid complications such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and other concerns. Lifestyle
modifications such as a proper menopausal diet, regular exercise, and mindfulness can also go a long way in supporting the woman to feel healthier.
Could you bust some popular myths around menopause and also please share with us a short insight into what to look for in regards to changes for post-40 to know for sure if you are pre-menopausal?
Some very common myths around menopause include;
– It happens only after the 50s,
– You don't need treatment for menopausal symptoms and they go away on their own,
– HRT causes cancer, it is ok to bleed after menopause, etc.
Post-40, one should watch out for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, tiredness, fatigue, vaginal dryness, etc., and seek treatment when they experience the symptoms and not only when they discover evident hormonal fluctuations. It is also important to prepare for menopause proactively, by being more aware and making sustainable lifestyle changes even before