Elizabeth Ellis, a former colleague and a friend of many years, has launched a brilliant campaign, #KnowYourMenopause. Elizabeth, who writes the 50sense (for women not afraid of getting older) blog, was struck by the lack of information and support through the menopause. It seemed ridiculous, given that every woman will face the menopause in their lifetime. Here she tells the story.
Elizabeth writes: Over the last few years, I’ve been to the doctor’s several times. Sitting in the waiting room, I’ve read the posters informing me about stroke, heart attack, breastfeeding clinics and how to spot the early signs of dementia. But, there wasn’t a single poster about the reason I was in the waiting room again: The menopause.
I have been at the doctor’s with many different complaints: Palpitations, hair loss, anxiety, aches in my joints – each a classic menopause symptom, if only I’d known it. After every appointment I’d leave with a blood test to do, or a prescription and once (palpitations) an appointment for a running test at the local hospital.
Each visit was a source of anxiety and frustration because I’d worry about wasting the doctor’s time, as well as my requests for another late start at work.
It was only when the hot flushes started – and I began Googling the best way to deal with them – that I realised almost every one of my previous complaints was because I was peri-menopausal.
My GP didn’t prescribe anything the first time I visited him specifically about being in the menopause years. Instead, he searched on the files of his computer until he found a document about menopause and then printed it off. It was four or five pages of A4, with a website highlighted for me to read more.
The print-outs did little beyond tell me what I’d already found out and the website link no longer worked. They were in the recycling box by the end of the day.
Over the past year, I’ve spoken to more women about their menopause and their stories have been almost identical. Beyond hot flushes and irregular periods, none of them realised they were suffering menopausal symptoms.
I’ve also heard several times about the doctor printing out information for them during the visit.
There are many aspects to how menopause is handled in this country that bugged me and this kept niggling away at me.
I may never suffer a stroke, nor a heart attack, but that day in October 1978 when I got my first period meant I would always go through menopause. And yet there was nothing informing me about it at my primary port-of-call for health.
After writing about this on 50Sense, saying how women were being let down by not having posters or leaflets you could shove in your handbag readily available at the GP’s surgery, other women got in touch with me over social media. A small group of us regularly discussed it and began tweeting MPs and health trusts to ask why there was no literature available.
A lightbulb moment
Then one evening, at the doctor’s to discuss new HRT, it got to me.
Surely, among all the posters on display, there could be just one about a condition that hits every woman? Just one to give women an inkling about why they were feeling moody, anxious or achy? Just one to let the millions of peri and menopausal women know they weren’t alone?
That’s when the #KnowYourMenopause campaign was born.
Sitting there, it hit me: If the NHS won’t give us posters, we’ll make our own.
I got in touch with Scottish graphic designer Allyson Shields, who happily agreed to create a kick-ass poster for us, and together with the women I’d met on Twitter, now banded together as Paustivity, we agreed our campaign tactics and hashtag.
Download a poster and spread the word
The idea is simple: We want you to download our poster https://tinyurl.com/KnowYourMenopausePausitivity and put in on display wherever it will be seen. That could be a community centre, your health clinic (ask for the practice manager), a work noticeboard, your local coffee shop, church hall – anywhere.
Then, we want you to take a #PosterSelfie with it and share on social media with the hashtag #KnowYourMenopause. Tag me in at @50Sense – and why not give your MP or local GP a little tag too?
You’ll be in good company. We’ve had support from Kaye Adams, Yvette Cooper, Dr Amir Khan, Chief Inspector Helen Lewis of South Yorkshire Police, menopause experts around the world and MPs. The Scottish Government will use the poster as part of their new periods and menopause policy.
Every day has been a constant surprise as we get new selfies and more messages of support.
With your help, we can break down the taboos and stop women feeling scared and alone. That’s Pausitivity.