So we ask ourselves, why? What happened that made so many women suffer in silence?
Medicine wasn’t there yet!
Women in older, more silent generations had many reasons for not feeling able to or even wanting to share their experiences with menopause. As we discussed in our previous blog, The Evolution of Menopause Technology, there were many real threats to women experiencing menopause even up until the 1970’s. For many women, seeking medical assistance would have been a one way ticket to being treated like a guinea pig, only to end up in a worse position healthwise after all said and done. [Many women recognized that seeking medical attention for menopausal symptoms would likely have been a gateway to intrusive and undesirable experimental treatments.]
Long periods of international strife.
Women also avoided speaking up because they didn’t want to be seen as complaining. After two World Wars, a Great Depression, and continued global turbulence, sharing about one’s symptoms and level of comfort fell on deaf ears.
Domestic roles and menopause misconceptions.
“Let me dispel a myth that because a woman reaches menopause and usually loses her ability to bear children, that means her purpose is done. Nothing is further from the truth. Menopause is a ‘transitional’ process. You’re moving from procreation to freedom to enrich those you have helped to create. ”
For a long time, there was a misinterpretation that menopause was womanhood ending. During generations with many women in more domestic roles at home, that could make mothers much more insecure in their most important role. Some women considered menopause a loss of purpose, as if motherhood was their sole purpose within society.
“Menopause is not a frequently brought up or discussed topic among the women in my family. I surmise the reason for that being they're either in denial or embarrassed about the symptoms. I'm actually glad that ppl like you are providing a forum on the subject. A safe place for discussion and a trusted place for good information about this normal transitional part of a woman's life. Menopause is NOTHING TO BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT, QUEENS! So let's come out of the ‘shadows’ and share the experience.”
In addition to these misconceptions about menopause and womanhood, mothers of a certain generation were also ashamed of many of the symptoms brought on by menopause. Prior to the 1970’s, the pressures of looking respectable and put together were demanding of all women. Hot flashes, sweating, mood swings, and headaches were enough to throw a normally very put together person off their game.
So, how did we break the silence? What let women start sharing and embracing this stage in their lives?
“My mom was fine to talk and laugh about it when I was a teen, but my grandmother was mortified and angry that I even said the M-word.”
Luckily, along the way there have been some women that have broken the silence, unaware of exactly what they were experiencing and how to get past it. The women’s liberation movement created many open pathways for dialog among women that hadn’t existed before. That was also a point in time in which medical advancements were finally catching up and giving women some of the resources they needed to manage their symptoms.
The internet, of course!
“My mom is from the silent generation. I feel far removed as an Xer because I advocate for my ob/gyn health issues and do not assume everything that happens is because of menopause. Some issues require diagnostic tests and doctors to clearly explain options.”
As younger generations start to experience symptoms for themselves, many women research menopause extensively or go to other women their same age for helpful guidance through the hormonal changes. This has resulted in an explosion of menopause awareness and advancements in women’s health and wellbeing.
The more women share the more medical researchers can advance what types of care are available. In addition to medical progress, there is a growing community of researchers and innovators looking to subside menopause symptoms. This is why joining and sharing in communities like the Multigenerational Sisterhood is so important.
Where do we go from here? What’s next for menopause?
“My grandmother never talked about it with my mom so she wasn’t sure what to expect or what would work for her. My mom is pretty open about her menopause but she’s always been the kind of person that would respond honestly (even bluntly) when asked a question. We talk about what medication works best for her and how much it helps. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I can tell when she is having a hot flash because her whole body language will change. We also talked about childbirth and what to expect and where the labor pains might be based on the cramps I get with my period. I’m really glad my mom and I can have such open conversations, I know not every woman is that lucky.”
With more women breaking the silence and embracing the freedom of this transitional phase of their lives, menopause seems like a much less scary and much more manageable experience.
In addition to this newfound freedom, better care and better technology, the new phase of openness about menopause has ushered in a greater bond and connection among generations. By speaking openly about their experiences, these grandmothers, daughters, and grand daughters can all start to share more openly. Daughters can also start to see that the older women in the family are suffering and be better equipped to help them. Excitingly, these same daughters can reach out and better ask for the support they need for themselves and encourage their daughters to continue that cycle.