Mumsnet Menopause

I wrote a thing for Mumsnet about menopause.  Here’s the linkie.mumsnet menopause

“When Angelina Jolie Pitt was pregnant with her twins she said something that made me dislike her intensely:

“It’s great for the sex life. It just makes you a lot more creative. So you have fun…”

For most of us, pregnant sex is more comedy than fun, and being creative only means coming up with ways to conceal your leaking breasts and dangling piles. To be fair to Angelina, she’s probably more enthusiastic about pregnant-porking than I ever was because she gets to do it with Brad Pitt.

I’ve forgiven her after reading her article in the New York Times this week, though. She wrote eloquently about her decision to have her ovaries removed, thereby pushing her into menopause, in order to manage her inherited cancer risk.

Seeing a well written, well informed, high profile article about the menopause makes me happy. Probably even happier than a romp with Brad Pitt might. Because we don’t talk about menopause in the public arena, do we?

Information about the menarche is delivered in schools. Though there’s a massive range in the quality of information, and much of what is delivered is sponsored by brands and far from perfect, at least it’s out there. (If you’re looking for help with explaining periods to young women, by the way, then have a look at Period Positive.) You’re usually not a school pupil when you get to the other end of the fertility spectrum, though – so, where are you supposed to get the facts about menopause?

Magazines, radio, articles and online forums are where most women land up, which is fine, except there is a lot of misinformation out there. There are plenty of very earnest articles called things like “dealing with symptoms of the menopause”. But “symptoms” is problematic – menopause is not an illness, and talking about it in such terms only adds to the sense that it is something “bad” and “problematic”, rather than an inevitable part of life for half the population.

The word “symptoms” is problematic – menopause is not an illness – but if you are struggling with changes in your mood, energy, sleep, pelvic floor, skin, weight, muscles, sex life, bones, heart, bladder, memory, hair, gut and vagina then it sure can feel like one.

Saying that, if you are struggling with changes in your mood, energy, sleep, pelvic floor, skin, weight, muscles, sex life, bones, heart, bladder, memory, hair, gut and vagina then it sure can feel like an illness. Some women sail through with barely a blip, others can suffer – and I mean suffer in the Biblical sense – for years. For women who have a sudden menopause, either because of surgery like Jolie, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, the symptoms can be particularly brutal. This is why it’s so important that we don’t suffer in silence, shrouded in embarrassment.

And it’s not easy, when even Madonna is subjected to menopause-based jokes in the workplace (in her case, The Brits): “I’m so excited about Madonna. I snuck into her dressing room back stage earlier and there’s a lot of drugs back there. But don’t worry it’s all HRT stuff”, tweeted the ever-hilarious Jimmy Carr. Because women in their fifties, who have made an informed choice to take HRT to protect their health, are hilarious. I suspect Madonna didn’t fall off that stage, but, instead, exuberantly threw herself off to flaunt her non-brittle-bones. Well, if you’ve got it…

Joking aside, many women keep quiet about symptoms that interfere with their job for fear that it might affect their prospects or professionalism. But with 63% of women aged 50-64 in the workplace, the menopause is an occupational health issue which we cannot afford to ignore.

Of course, help is available via a GP or menopause clinic. “What’s a menopause clinic?” I hear you ask. It’s unusual, that’s what. There are only 29 in the UK, and inevitably, these clinics are serving just a fraction of the women who would benefit from knowledgeable, specialist help. The cynic in me suspects that if it were men who experienced the menopause there’d be at least 30 clinics.

The NHS’s #changethechange campaign – the aim of which is to “put the menopause on your agenda” – is a good start, but we should all follow Angelina’s advice, too: “seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.” So, here are some links for your knowledge. Bring on the power.

All the facts you need to know can be found on Health Talk. Well, not where you left the car keys, but everything else. And Menopause UK is another great evidence-based site.

Evidently Cochrane is the public face of the Cochrane Review, which is where NICE guidelines are born, and has some brilliant blogs on menopause.

And, if you feel like sharing your experiences, but the New York Times won’t publish them (the rotters), then have a look at Menopause UK’s ‘voice for women’ page, or, of course, share your experiences on the thread below.

By Elaine Miller

Twitter: @GussieGrips


Sex matters

I wrote a thing for Evidently Cochrane about sex and the menopause.  My interest in the topic may well be fuelled by my own menopause, which I catch a glimpse of every now and then.  She waves at me from just past tomorrow.

I’ve been mulling over taboos and all the things women don’t talk about.  All the common experiences we share – I know that because the stats have told me so – but, don’t discuss because of…erm, dunno really.

I’m a woman, so I get hormonal rages, hormonal funks and the hormonal horn.  If you’re a woman, so do you.  And, that’s whether or not you were born with the right bits or had to get help to make your body match your brain.  We women all sweat, wobble, have hairy bits and bodies that do weird stuff.  It’s shouldn’t be embarrassing, because it’s just fact.

Now, I’ll admit that embarrassment isn’t something that I am “au fait” with.  If inhibition is a gene, well, I think I’m missing that one.  Careful observation of my peers has made me realise that most people don’t talk about their facial hair at the bus stop.  So, I assume that embarrassment is what largely prevents women from talking about vaginae – which denies us the opportunity to develop peer support for our inevitable, and life changing (well, maybe a wee fuzzy tache won’t change your life, but, some of the other stuff definitely does), bodily functions.

We need more information about being women.

Sex ed shouldn’t finish at the school gate with young people knowing the basics about their bodies and boundaries.   It needs to continue throughout our lives because our bodies change and so do our boundaries.

The side effect of a lack of education is ignorance.  So, forget shyness or modesty.  See your GP, get help for that troubling symptom.  Don’t put up with it.

Or else <stern face>, I’ll come to your bus stop and ask loudly about how you’re getting on with your vaginal dryness*.

Here’s the link to my blog and the blogs from Evidently Cochrane’s menopause week, and to #changethechange “no sex please, we’re menopausal”

*see the brilliantly named for lovely lube available on prescription.

Rabbie Burns and bowel incontinence

When Burns Night falls on a weekend, Edinburgh heaves with crumpled kilts, whisky snobbery and stumbling poetry renditions.

I grew up in Alloway, a small town on the West Coast of Scotland.  It’s where The Scottish Bard was from, so, mine was one of the most cultured paper rounds in the country.  I trudged past The Auld Kirk (where Tam O’Shanter saw the Devil playing the bagpipes and fair fancied a witch), the cottage where he was born and a vast horizon of vermin-infested fields to distribute news at a penny a paper.

Inevitably, our schooling was Burns-tastic and so I understand what “Auld Lang Syne” (trans “the song that nobody knows the words to”), is actually about.

The MiniGrips are hugely excited about being subjected to a dinner of haggis, neeps and tatties (“you don’t have to like it, but, you do have to try”) and Mr Grips is wincing at my rendition of “Oh my Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”.  Some of the notes are so high the neighbour’s dog is whimpering.  Bunch of philistines.

So, my Burns Credentials are plain, right?

And, what, you may be wondering, has that got to do with bowel incontinence?

Well, firstly, let’s remind ourselves that any leaking of pee, poo or pumps is abnormal.  Nothing should involuntary dribble or squeak out of you, and, if it does, you need to know that you don’t need to put up with it.

About 10% of the general population leak poo.  Generally speaking, they are mortified and manage it as best they can – inevitably, that’s not as effective as if they got help from their GP, pelvic physio or continence nurse. (good article here)

Here’s my usual gentle nudge…if you are reading this with a wodge of loo roll shoved up your “shuch” (Scots nouns are the best nouns) then please, please, please go and get help.  That stuff dries out your bum hole skin, and it is almost impossible to give it a satisfying “howk” (Scots verbs are the best verbs) in polite company.  You can be more comfortable and more confident. Don’t. Put. Up. With. It.

Anyway.  Some of you might know that Burns wrote poetry about   lovepolitics and Millers – but, he wrote an astonishing  heap of raunch and filth too.

I give you my very favourite Burns poem, “There was twa wives”  Features drunk women, farting and a poo accident.

Mumsnetters, Mumsnet and Me.

Yoda wasn’t at Mumsnet’s #Blogfest on Saturday, but, all weekend I could hear him snorting at me “Much to learn, you still have, young Padawan”

I knew that I should probably spend some time figuring out how to put in a photo (like, above, would be nice if there was a piccie of me and Yoda, right?) and thinking about what purpose my ramblings have…

…well, I’m kind of embarrassed to have realised that blogs aren’t meant for ramblings.  Nope.  Serious business.  Actual business.

I knew that some folk made money from their blog, and some landed up with columns and books and advising the Government because their blogs highlighted something important that had never had a forum.  I’m not a total dinosaur.

But, I had no idea that people did 40 drafts of each post.

40 drafts!  My jaw hit the floor and what flitted through my mind was “why?”, the Mumsnetters all nodded and laughed that knowing laugh women have when they recognise a shared, accepted, slightly frustrating bit of life.

So, I polajise fur ma ytpos adn bad grammyir.  I thought blogging was supposed to be like a stream of consciousness and that everyone was just naturally funny.  To be honest, it’s a great relief to hear that’s 40 drafts-worth-of-funny.

What happened to me at #Blogfest was a very steep learning curve and a sharp realisation that I’m never going to do it.

Happily, just before I burst into I’m-such-an-inadequate tears, I had a conversation with a couple of people in the Green Room (yes, you know who they are, no, I’m not name dropping, yes, I’m not-name-dropping just to annoy you, this sort of thing never happens to me and I’m milking it) the conclusion of which was “fuck it”.

I COULD spend the time figuring out wordpress – but, it’d be better spent writing my book that I procrastinate over.  Beeban Kidron said as much.  Well, she said it about her, and I’m in agreement.

So, I’m going to take the advice of the best-selling authors and social-media gurus and get on with what I’m good at.  Which is, collecting fart jokes.

I have four years worth of scribbles and doodles which are The Book.  Nick Hornby said that if you write 500 words a day you’d have a novel by the end of the year.  I’ve got until the end of the month, minor detail, right?

Thanks to Mumsnet for letting me have a go on their stage.  I met some extraordinary people, some of whom were the speakers, but, most of whom were Mumsnetters.

It always amazes me what happens when you get a roomful of women.  Stuff.  Stuff happens – the laughter and camaraderie and support are obvious – but, I’m talking about the campaigning.  Some campaigns are small and personal, some are big and for the masses, but all of them are changing our worlds.

Including mine.  Which started off with one fallen fanjo and is now eyeing up yours. Change the world, one pelvic floor at a time.

Next step is to spend 40 drafts compiling a proposal about why Mumsnet should run a campaign on continence.  So far it reads “because there are loads of fannies reading Mumsnet”.  Needs a bit of work.

I covet a beautiful blog.  It’s never going to happen.  This is as good as it’s going to get – amateurish and featureless.

Anyone who makes a joke that “amateurish and featureless” is like me all over is getting my pelvic floor in their face.


Not that.  That’s mibbes a bit sinister.  Also, My pelvic floor is neither amateurish nor featureless.

See, if I’d done a draft I’d have had something clever to finish on.  Penny drops.

Ach, fuckit. <presses publish>

Better blog for #blogfest

My plan was to spend the last few months figuring out what blogging is by, you know, blogging, so that when I got up to speak at an event about blogging I didn’t look like a total eejit.

Haven’t done it.  24 hours in a day is an inadequate system.  Who do I write to get it changed?

Tomorrow I’m on a panel with National Treasures telling Mumsnet bloggers how to find their funny.

I’m very excited, Mumsnet are hugely powerful, like Tescos, only dressed in Boden and nice to farmers.

I’d really, really if they’d consider running continence as a campaign.  They are ideally placed to be able to burst the taboo, educate women that leaking is common but never normal, promote that #physioworks and sing that whilst 1:3 women leak there is an 80% cure rate and so you don’t have to put up with it.

I’m very flattered to have been asked to speak at this event.  I have no BAFTA, no book (yet), tv show, knowledge about the arts – am hoping no one notices that.  I do, however,  have a beautifully knitted vagina bag, so, if the worst comes to the worst I could always wave that about a bit.

Of course, there’s also every chance I’ll learn how to turn this blog into something pretty, user friendly and worth your valuable reading time.  I’m hoping someone clever will volunteer to sit me down, hold my hand and explain how to write posts without just clicking on the orange button in the corner.  Photos would be good, eh?  Ambitious, that’s me.

Anyhoo, here’s some links to me with mumsnet and one of me doing a bit of stand up.  I’ve since brushed my hair.

See you there?  I’ll be the one who’s carrying a limp fanny bag and looking star struck.


Mumsnet blog about pish:

Me talking pish: