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Kirsty Wark (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

‘I just coped’

New documentary explores physical effect of menopause on women — as well as its social impact

By WITW Staff on April 20, 2017

Renowned Scottish journalist Kirsty Wark has made a new documentary for the BBC that explores the myriad effects of menopause — as well as possible treatments that can ease what might otherwise be painful, life-altering symptoms.

Wark said that the inspiration for The Menopause and Me, which debuts Thursday on BBC1, came after she underwent a “medical menopause” at age 47. After she had to undergo a hysterectomy and then chose to come off of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to its reported risk of causing breast cancer, Wark said she found herself enduring painful symptoms that would continue to haunt her for years.

“Suddenly, I had no estrogen and the disturbed sleep and night sweats started,” Wark recalled. “By the time I started making the documentary, nothing much had changed for me in 12 years and I just coped with it, as so many others do.”

Perhaps the worst part, she added, was the feeling that she had no-one to talk to about what she was going through.

“It’s not so long ago that the hormonal changes that came with menopause were regarded as madness – the madwomen in the attic,” said Wark. “Mythology has a lot to answer for.”

Today, things are much easier for women with menopause than they were even just 50 years ago, when women suffering hot flashes and hormone driven mood swings were often shunned and expected to bow out — gracefully or otherwise — from social life. In recent years, prominent women have been more open about undergoing menopause — speaking with People magazine, Gillian Anderson admitted that perimenopause, the hormonal transition that occurs prior to menopause, had made her feel powerless.

“All of a sudden, I felt I could handle nothing. I felt completely overwhelmed,” Anderson said. “When I talked to the specialist, she said she often gets phone calls from female CEOs screaming, ‘I need help now! I’m losing my mind!’ I felt like somebody else had taken over my brain.”

Given that many women will live a third of their lives after menopause — often in the prime of their careers — learning how best to treat and manage symptoms caused by it remains an important topic of research for doctors.

While not all women suffer from menopause to the same extent, Wark believes it’s important that workplaces and social circles alike be kinder to women undergoing the transition — and that women be as informed as possible about the treatments that already exist for their symptoms. See Wark discussing her documentary in the interview below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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