Should we delay the menopause?

Should we delay the menopause?


This week we heard the news that an operation has been developed to delay the menopause. I find that this news makes me disproportionately annoyed. Not because I don’t think the surgery might be useful for some women, but because of the idea that all women will be celebrating this news.

Because the menopause is apparently the worst possible thing that can happen to a woman. Let’s just unpack this a bit. For the vast majority of women, menopause is a stage of life we pass through, much like puberty. It isn’t something we need to fight, although for many having access to
better understanding and treatment of symptoms would be amazing.

However,

In the development of this surgery, I can’t help but feel we have yet another instance of trying to keep women young and fertile and biddable. How so, I’m sure you ask. Well, Let’s look at the primary purpose of menopause: it is to bring an end to the fertile phase of a woman’s life. Through this, many women find their voice finally.

They find their ability to say “no” to things they no longer wish to do. They evolve, butterfly-like, into the stage of life where their wisdom is to be celebrated and sought out.
I absolutely appreciate that for some women their fertility is what defines them.

To lose that brings about a very big grieving process, accompanied by a cocktail of symptoms that frankly don’t help them.

Add to this that many primary care providers are still woefully under educated on menopause, and much less perimenopause, and it can be a very difficult time. Indeed the idea of a short procedure that might delay all this could hold some appeal.

But is it the answer?

Is the answer not more likely to be that we should educate everyone about the aging process in women, rather than write off all women over 45 as old and past it? Shouldn’t we also celebrate EVERY woman for who she wants to be, rather than labelling all women as potential mothers, followed by laughing stock with hot flushes, followed by invisible.

If as a society we placed more value on the life experience of older women, and held them in higher regard, might we move more towards understanding and education, rather than mirth and surgery?
And lastly, if we created a society where each woman had the right to decide what SHE wants for her body and her life, might we find that surgeries like this became less enticing while finding that procedures to sterilise those who know they never wish to be a mother became easier to access.

Of course, I am talking about a society in which women are trusted to take decisions about their own body, where doctors don’t ask what their husband (or worse, what some fictional future husband) wants for them. Let’s work towards a society where women can have bodily autonomy, can be taken seriously about what they want whether it’s menopause relief and support, whether it’s to stay fertile longer, whether it’s to stop being fertile at a young age. And where we can all talk freely about this, without
being pushed aside for speaking about “women’s issues”. Is that really too much to ask?

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