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Madhu’s Menopause Experience

An Asian women wearing a grey sleeveless turtle neck jumper, sitting on a red sofa - smiling to the camera.

My experience with perimenopause and menopause was not at all what I was expecting. My expectation was periods stopping with a few hot flushes here and there and nothing else to it.

I thought I would be at a comfortable stage in my life where my two daughters were grown up and no longer needed to rely on me. This was going to be my time, where I was content in my work, began to have a great social life, and date my husband to rekindle what we had prior to having our daughters.

But as me and my husband began to rebuild our relationship, I slowly felt myself changing and being a person who I did not recognise and disliked. I became a nagging, screaming, tearful wife and mother who began not to care.

Initially, I had small symptoms such as brittle nails and dry, itchy, sensitive and burning skin. Then my confidence started to fade, I had brain fog and forgetfulness. As my periods became irregular, I was having an increase in migraine attacks which would last for three days a week, as well as night sweats, insomnia, incontinence and joint aches and pain.

My life began being dominated by these symptoms, but I was clueless that menopause could be the cause.

I slowly felt myself changing and being a person who I did not recognise and disliked."

With a background in HR, I worked as a recruitment specialist during this time. Pre-menopause, I was an independent, confident, and proactive employee. I loved my job and it was second nature to me. But suddenly, the meetings I was so used to attending became challenging as I would not remember things that would be discussed, could not put a sentence together, and I felt completely empty-headed and needed reassurance.

This began taking a toll on me mentally. I could not multitask anymore, I lost my mojo, I felt lonely, incompetent and did not value my worth. In 2016, I resigned from my job, after approaching my manager for help and being let down. I was no longer coping, thinking perhaps my health would improve by leaving. I was wrong, my health further declined, and I still had no idea it was menopause.

I was slowly losing control not knowing what was happening to my body and mind. I felt I was a walking disaster. My family was reaching breaking point but I did not care. I was in a very dark place mentally and not coping.

Throughout this, I attempted to get help so many times, but there was a long delay in getting diagnosed with menopause. I felt unheard by my GP. Each of my symptoms was dealt with as its own separate entity and I thought this was the process they needed to follow so didn’t question it. I was often referred for individual blood tests, which would often come back clear, or would get the occasional diagnosis of anemia, or lacking in Vitamin D. The appointments made me feel that it was all in my head and that I was constantly wasting their time.

Because of this, my life was put on hold for years. I felt a huge lack of clarity as menopause was never spoken to me in depth until I was finally diagnosed.

How could I ask for support from those around me if I didn’t know what was happening to me?

I was slowly losing control not knowing what was happening to my body and mind."

It took me reaching my breaking point for HRT to even be put on the table, with my GP imposing their personal preference for herbal medication. Eventually, the GP prescribed me a liquid antidepressant to help me with my night sweats, and I was told that it may help me with my moods. However, my symptoms continued to worsen and after seeing the same GP repeatedly, I finally intentionally saw a different GP. It took me breaking down in tears to finally have HRT as an option. This is one of the biggest reflections I have on my menopause experience. There was complete lack of clarity of what treatment options were available throughout the entirety of the management of my menopause.

HRT helped me get through each day, to sleep at night, with fewer migraines and helping several physical symptoms. It brought back that motivation that helped bring life back into me. It took being patient with HRT, with trial and error to find the right combination which worked for me.

I believe my menopause experience and the inequality in care had to do with my upbringing. As a South Asian woman, I was brought up believing that women’s health was a no-go area, and to not openly talk about it. The females in my life – mother, sisters, aunts, and friends – didn't discuss their experiences openly.

I believe my menopause experience and the inequality in care had to do with my upbringing."

Even today, there are certain behaviours which are hard to let go of for some women; to not shame or embarrass the family name within the community, which means not discussing any sensitive subjects to avoid ‘weakness’ being shown or judgments by others in the community. To obey, respect and abide by how society has shown what the norm is. To respect those who are in authority and not question their professionalism (ie. HCPs or GPs). To not be confrontational in situations so as not to make trouble - just remain silent and get through it.

So, I suffered in silence for years and kept things private close to my chest. I didn’t question or confront authority. I didn’t fight or challenge to get the right support that I needed, I believe this is why my journey was hard for years, until I started to fight back and speak up.

Once I got diagnosed and began to research menopause in Google, the images that would come up did not represent me. I saw grey haired Caucasian women. I felt my journey even more of a battle as I could not see ‘me’ reflected in the images portrayed online, so how was this happening to me?

I suffered in silence for years and kept things private close to my chest."

Because of what I have been through I founded M for Menopause, and am due to publish a book ‘Working through Menopause’ later this year. Through M for Menopause, I provide the lessons I learnt and empower women to take action, including working within South Asian communities. I am learning that too many try to battle through their symptoms because they are used to doing that. The delay in getting appointments, or lack of trust in their GPs often leads to many not contacting their GP, even when they are suffering.

Through M for Menopause, I hope to drive change across the healthcare system, in workplaces and communities to reduce inequities and ensure that no other woman experiences a journey like mine.

The Health Collective

The Health Collective

The Health Collective was launched by Wellbeing of Women in September 2023 to ensure that the voices and knowledge of women from historically marginalised communities are fed into the delivery of the Women’s Health Strategy to help address the stark health inequalities across society