Menopause is referred to as “taboo”: It’s time to end the stigma

Thy Dang '25, Staff Writer

Image from Intimina 

Menopause is defined as a natural process affecting women in their 40s and 50s. Every woman who has a monthly menstrual cycle will go through menopause. Naturally, declining levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries decrease in production which can cause a myriad of symptoms including chills, sleep problems, and mood changes. Recently, when I first heard of menopause from my mother, my initial thoughts were, “What is menopause? and “Why is it invading my mother’s body?” But as I did more research, I learned that menopause is a natural transition in a women’s lifetime rather than any kind of disease or illness. This goes to show how we as a society should step up to learn more about this process. We are letting the older women in our lives go through it all on their own. It is crucial to spread awareness about this issue. 

Why is menopause still a taboo subject and frequently met with silence when discussed?  


One probable reason is age: “Menopause screams to all women loud and clear, we are getting older. And the other thing that comes with that is hormonal change. And I believe that’s because there’s still a perception out there that hormonal change might compromise a woman’s ability to make big decisions or manage things correctly” (UNSW Sydney Newsroom). Many women do not talk about menopause because they associate it with getting old. Growing older is not acceptable, as women have often been taught. Maturing is when everything that they had planned for them is completely thrown out the window, according to societal standards. When these women reach menopause, they may feel as if they’ll lose their worthiness- that is, when nothing about them is worth valuing- and become obsolete. Why then would women want to talk about it? 

It is unfortunately common among women in prior generations to hide menopause and act as if nothing is wrong. Also, it should be noted that most cultures celebrate puberty and the beginning of a woman’s menstruation since those events “start her journey as a woman,” but that does not happen with menopause, as it implies the end of “her womanhood.” Because women believe that their last period will mark the end of their relevance in society, they develop this perception of menopause and refrain from speaking out about it.  


Menopausal women frequently find it difficult to communicate their worries to their loved ones and healthcare providers. Many decide not to talk about it at all and carry on with their lives as if nothing is wrong. According to Darcey Steinke an American author and educator, “My first memory of menopause was Edith Bunker from All in the Family. I remember her getting hot and running into the kitchen then hearing the laugh track roar. And I remember my dad telling me, ‘Oh, she’s in menopause.’ Sorry, Dad. It wasn’t negative, he just said to me that was menopause.” But even that was couched in a lot of humiliation and negativity” (FSG Work In Progress). Reactions like this are one of the many various reasons many women find it difficult to talk about menopause. 

Menopause is directly related to behaviors of women that are deemed “inappropriate” for conversation. Women who are in the initial stages of menopause may develop stress incontinence, anxiety, depression, and vaginal dryness. Given the sensitivity of the matter, women may find it awkward and embarrassing to discuss it with family members and healthcare providers. This draws parallels to the instruction that periods are gross and not to be discussed.  


Menopause and its symptoms are frequently perceived by women as typical and normal, leading them to believe they have no need to ask any questions: “In other words, they may believe that this is just how they are ‘supposed to feel’ during this time period, and there is nothing a doctor can do to help. That presumption could not be further from the truth” (Forbes). There is a strong belief that because menopause is a natural process, women should just learn to live with it. Women often think that it is not a big deal because other women experience it and must cope with it. Moreover, due to a significant amount of gender bias in medicine, women’s complaints are often overlooked and not given much weight. Most think that symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, hair loss, weight gain, joint pain, night sweats, and itchiness will eventually pass. For most women, this is not the case. The symptoms may last up to five years on average, but they become less frequent and less severe over time. 


It is difficult to locate physicians and medical professionals with training and education in menopausal treatment. Women must frequently deal with medical professionals that lack the knowledge and training necessary to properly address the myriad health complications associated with menopause. “Stephanie S. Faubion, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Center and medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), said this lack of understanding isn’t uncommon. ‘Most clinicians are no longer trained about menopause,’ she said. ‘We did a study that was published in 2018. It found that internal medicine, family medicine, and OB-GYN residents got maybe an hour of education or training in menopause’” (Healthy Women). Doctors are trained to treat diseases, but menopause is not a disease. As a result, if doctors do not take the time outside of medical school and their busy practices to learn how to help their menopause patients outside of prescribing birth control or antidepressants, they will not be well-versed in other options and will only be able to offer a pat on the knee.   


Menopause is considered “taboo” and is not discussed often. However, a new generation of women entering midlife is changing the debate about menopause. Generation Z (Gen Z) is redefining the conversation about periods. Women of Generation X (Gen X) want to experience menopause differently, thus instead of remaining silent or keeping their experiences to themselves, these women are normalizing and sharing them. Even though there is still a long way to go before menopause is fully accepted and normalized everywhere, this is still progress.  


Providing safe spaces where women can discuss their menopause and menstrual cycle, may help it feel less scary. More spaces should be created where women may discuss menopause and their shared experiences with it. Most women believe they must do this on their own, which makes it a lonely period for these women. With the assistance of other women, the isolation can end. Family members can also help keep an eye out for symptoms and encourage these women to seek treatment and assistance from professionals rather than struggling alone and upholding this generational tradition of keeping quiet if they are aware of the emotional and physical issues associated with menopause.