Kfm Radio’s Ciara Plunkett discusses Vichy’s menopause research with My Second Spring
Kfm's Ciara Plunkett, Kildare Focus spoke to Aisling Grimley about new research by Vichy on menopause
This is a transcript of the Interview with KFM
Aisling Grimley talks to Ciara Plunkett of KFM_15 February 2016
Ciara: But first, a new study by My Second Spring has found a shocking proportion of women don't understand or don't recognize when they have achieved menopause. I'm joined on the line now by founder Aisling Grimly. Aisling, you're very welcome to the program.
Aisling: Hi, there Carrie. How are you doing? Just sorry. I'm sorry, just one thing. The research is done my Vichy rather than me. Just to tell you that.
Ciara: It is published by you and brought to us by you and you're speaking on it. But 70% Aisling, is quite an astounding proportion of women not to understand what's happening with their bodies.
Aisling: Yes. I must say that has been very much my experience since founding the website which is three years ago. I think there's a lot of confusion around menopause because first of all because we don't really talk about it which doesn’t help.
But also symptoms vary from one woman to another. And as you say, Vichy have done this great research which is the first time anyone has really spoken to women in Ireland about menopause. So I think that this is really great that we're having the conversation.
But I think certainly taking my own example, I was 48 and had some symptoms which felt very hormonal but I didn't know but I didn't know what they were exactly. I mean, I think this happens to a lot of women because the symptoms of menopause can be quite similar at times to pregnancy so I actually thought I was pregnant. But that was a bit of a worry for me because I have four lovely daughters and I was 48.
So I was feeling – I actually had breast tenderness, I had kind of irritations, there's a lot of irritable mood and my period was coming and going so I thought maybe I was pregnant which is very common. But anyway, it turns out that it was menopause. So I thought, “What else could be causing hormonal shift?”
And I think this is a very common thing for women not to understand because as it also says in the research, 63% of women expect menopause to take place when they're 50 to 54 whereas in reality the average age is 53. And most women experience a lot of these symptoms during a phase which is called perimenopause. And perimenopause takes place four to eight years before actual menopause. So a lot of our symptoms, they can vary from one woman to another and also they are happening when we’re a lot younger.
We don't necessarily recognize them as menopause because also a lot of women still have period at that stage. So it's not, it's a little bit confusing, put it that way.
Ciara Plunkett: I imagine that the vast disparity in experience from woman to woman and also the quite significant age range at which perimenopause can occur might contribute to the fact that that seven in ten women don't recognize when menopause is happening to them. But I would say Aisling that it's more likely that this is a topic that's so little talked about that is the reason why most women don't understand it.
Aisling: Yes, I completely agree with you. And I have to say even for me, a lot of women even [00:02:59] would say this but feel quite well-informed, quite on top of life in general. And then, suddenly they realized that they know nothing about menopause which is something that's on the horizon.
I think in the past, there’s a lot of negativity around menopause and that's one of the reasons that women don't talk about it. But I think that it's definitely changing and when you have brands like Vichy coming aboard and doing this research and really supporting women during menopause, I think that's really helpful and it's really – because it's getting us all talking because that's in my experience. So many women tell me that they feel very alone and isolated.
I've had conversations with women on my website from all over the world and again, saying that they feel unsupported. But it's a common thing not just in Ireland but very much worldwide.
But I think it's really brilliant that things are changing. As I keep saying, the change is changing. Women are starting to talk.
As I say, Vichy have done this first properbit of research for us. Because when I for example was pregnant, first of all which was 21 years ago, there was very little spoken about pregnancy at that stage and even in terms of clothing. Like, I was wearing my husband's oversized shirts and kind of leggings and nothing very glamorous.
And I remember there was a big deal, very exciting because Demi Moore was pictured on the front cover of a magazine and everybody saw her bump and this was really big news. Whereas, nowadays it’s much more common for women to be comfortable talking about pregnancy.
And I think the same thing is going to happen with menopause. Obviously not quite to the same extent but even – because a couple of years later or several years later at my youngest daughter, by the time I had her, the attitude to pregnancy changed and I was wearing lovely designer jeans and those pregnancy Pilates and yoga and all sorts of stuff. And I definitely think that women of my age and a little older change the conversation and that we will find that menopause is spoken about more and more.
Ciara Plunkett: I think change in the conversation is certainly needed given that this comes to 51% of the world's population and everybody alive has a mother, an aunt, a sister or a brother or a friend that will be going through at some point. So there's nothing here of which to be ashamed or about which to stick one’s head in the sand.
But one of the things that I do note that's very worrying about this research was that just 2% of the women going through menopause felt that their health care professional was understanding. That's very concerning.
Aisling: Yes. I was surprised that it was low as that. I think that also needs a change. But I think what happened in the past is that there was a lot of negativity around HRT and I think that a lot of women would put off HRT at that stage. Another thing has changed in terms prescription.
And the other thing though is that don't forget that it happens to 100% of women to menopause but for a lot of women they don't know of it. So 75% of women have symptoms, not everybody. So the natural transition as well, it's not necessarily something that we need, that all women need health care. And maybe that's what – I think a lot of women at midlife are quite happy to do things as naturally as possible as well. So that might be another reason that women don't seek help.
But I definitely think there are some women who are suffering in silence. And I think if we can have this conversation it can help women not to suffer in silence because there's a lot of help. In a different range, there’s a lot of range of different therapists and treatments that can be helpful.
And actually on the website My Second Spring, I have a list of the different treatments and therapists that women can consider. Because I think it's really important to feel that you can make informed the patients about your health and I think women like to do that at midlife.
Ciara Plunkett: I think everybody really likes to be able to do that throughout their life, Aisling. I think that menopause has traditionally overwhelmingly been viewed as a very negative stage in life.
What I find quite uplifting about this – and I’m not [00:07:06] this particular proportion – but only one in five women said that menopause has had a negative effect on their relationships. To hear the general dialogue about this, you would assume that that would have been every woman.
Aisling: That's very true. And I think that it's hard when you're faced with a lot negativity because I find out when I first leaped into menopause, that all the websites and all the information – and even the information I've stored in the back of my head was all quite grim and drew and negative.
And even when I ask friends, did anyone say about menopause, invariably said things like “the end, washed up, dried up, my mother had a terrible time”, which I think is really awful. And that's why I also got this idea of in China, they call menopause a second spring. And they see it as a time where women are valued for their wisdom and their experience and that women oftentimes find the new confidence and a new voice.
And I truly believe as well that if women have a positive association with something with menopause, it will be more of a positive thing. So it's important that we frame it and even having this conversation means that we can make woman aware as it says in the Vichy research, symptoms happen earlier than expected.
A lot of women at 63% expected menopause to take place at 50 or 54 when in reality it's going to be, symptoms are going to be in our 40's. And if we take action to be as healthy and as fit as possible in our early 40's and make a plan for menopause, it's definitely going to be a better experience.
Ciara Plunkett: Aisling Grimley, founder of My Second Spring. Thank you for joining us.