Authors: Deepali Kausshik, Public Health Professional; Kumar Gaurav, Public Health Professional Malnutrition is a persistent issue in India, with millions of children…
Author: Jyotika Rimal, Advocacy Officer, Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management Partners’ Alliance (MHM PA)
Note: October 18th, 2023 marks World Menopause Day
Over the years, menstrual health has been able to mark itself as an important part in a woman’s life. The last decade has shown immense improvement in downsizing the stigma associated with menstruation. However, menopause has still not gained enough momentum to be considered important and is often still neglected. In most cases, women are often not equipped with enough resources to understand what menopause is and they are unaware of the changes that their bodies will face while transitioning from a reproductive stage to a postmenopausal stage. The changes are more than just physical; it also affects women and their mental well-being; often impacting their personal and professional lives.
Menopause comes as a shock to many women often creating havoc in their way of living. Due to lack of proper knowledge and guidance, many of them might also not realize that the symptoms that they are facing might actually be because of menopause. Symptoms like sudden hot flashes and inconsistent mood swings often make women question themselves about their bodies and have no clear answers.
Limited and Outdated Research
Over the years, menopause is getting some attention but not enough to create a global movement. Amongst many countries, many organizations in the UK have now recognized menopause as an important part of a woman’s life. The New York Times (NYT) shared a documentary few years back titled “What Menopause Feels Like” which gives a very clear and concise perspective. It is very difficult to find such documentaries focusing on the Global South.
However, when we look at South Asia and specifically Nepal, there is very few research done. When we try to find data from Nepal, there are few peer-reviewed journal articles which date back to many years before. The “Journal of South Asia Federation of Menopausal Society” has two articles from Nepal (last being from 2013). A recent article from 2022 from Nepal highlights the menopausal symptoms and care providers readiness to deliver services on menopause.
Even when we look at international journals, there are very few articles about menopause; mostly overshadowed by the Global West and majority of them coming from individuals from the medical field.
Menopause is Everyone’s Business
It is not only women who should be responsible to learn about menopause. There needs to be equal efforts made from other individuals – partners, children, parents, colleagues and everyone who has a direct relationship with a menstruating individual should have knowledge about menopause and its effects in general. This will not only help women feel less isolated but will also help in creating a safe space to talk about symptoms of menopause and help women in getting the best help.
People don’t realize this, but menopause is a part of a woman’s life that affects almost all other aspect of her life. When a menopausal woman through physical and mental changes, it becomes difficult to navigate relationships, work, household chores and everything else. Research also shows that perimenopause can last up to 14 years. It is impossible to even imagine that some women might have to live with the symptoms for that long.
In the professional setting, if women are not able to manage their menopause properly, there is lost work productivity.
Therefore, it becomes important to understand that menopause needs immediate attention and that enough resources and knowledge must be disseminated in order to help women with smooth transitioning.
What needs to be done?
Certain ways can be adapted to bring menopause into the mainstream and to advocate for positive ways to deal with it.
First of all, people need to stop considering women going through menopause as having an expiry date by associating them on their capacity to not bear children anymore. Women are much for than their “ovaries” and we need to stop this notion of demeaning women’s worth when she stops menstruating.
Second, ample resources need to be available; not only for women and young girls but for everyone in general. When partners, children, work colleagues and everyone else around will have enough knowledge about menopause, it will help in reducing the stigma and to explore avenues through which menopause can be mainstreamed.
Thirdly, just like menstrual hygiene, menopause should also gain momentum. This can be done through research and advocacy. There needs to be enough evidence that provides base for one to argue about menopause and its importance in the lives of many women. Menopausal women and their stories need to be researched and peer-reviewed journals should give space to such narratives. With dissemination of real and lived narratives, it will help many women relate to themselves and help in decreasing the isolation they feel while going through menopause.
It is time we reflect upon the difficulties that women face while going through menopause and try to make their lives better.