From September 2020 the menopause will be added to the English school curriculum. Menopause is a biological stage in a woman’s life occurring when she stops menstruating and when she reaches the end of her natural reproductive life, this is an important part of a woman’s reproductive health. It is usually defined as having occurred when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months (for those women who reach menopause naturally). Changes associated with menopause occur when the ovaries stop maturing ova and secreting the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
For the first time, those in secondary schools are set to learn about the menopause after the topic was added to the sex education curriculum by the government. As a woman moves towards the menopause menstruation becomes erratic and eventually stops. A number of secondary effects accompany this described as ‘menopausal symptoms’. There are over 30 symptoms of menopause including joint pain, vaginal dryness, fatigue and hair loss and mental issues impacting on mental wellbeing. Women report that the menopause has caused them to change their life, and that it had a negative impact.
Median age at the final menopausal period is FMP is 52.54 years1. The menopause can result in relationship issues as many fail to understand it properly.It is hoped that inclusion in the curriculum will help pupils support their mothers, sisters and partners later in life and to encourage women to recognise the symptoms and to access care and support if needed.
Whilst its good to see that pupils in secondary schools will be receiving insight into menopause, it is just as important that we get own house in order also recognising the concerns of women. Health and social care professionals must also develop their understanding of menopause if they are to offer care and support, to help women feel less alone, to express to them that we are listening to them and they are being taken seriously. Menopause, the body change that nobody wants to talk about is not just a woman’s issue, it affects every one of us – from a mother or sister, to those who we work with.
Professor Ian Peate, Professor of Nursing at the School of Health Studies in Gibraltar and Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Nursing
1. Gold, E.B., Crawford, S.L., Avis, N.E et al. Factors Related to Age at Natural Menopause: Longitudinal Analyses From SWAN. 2013 American Journal of Epidemiology Vol 178 No 1 pp70-83