We often talk about how menstruation is a taboo topic in our part of the world. It is telling that menopause is hardly mentioned at all, even as part of sexual health and reproductive rights (SRHR) conversations. Most uterus-owners have little access to credible information about menopause - whether chemically/medically-induced or otherwise, although taboo and ignorant superstitions abound.
For cis-women, who experience menopause either due to being middle-aged or medical procedures such as the removal of their uterus, menopause signals the end of fetility. Since, fertility is often linked to youthfulness, which in turn is interpreted as conventionally attractive, it can be a rather gloomy, lonesome experience.
“Menopause, in my experience was a bye-bye to youth and a harsh truth,” said one post-menopausal 57-year-old, S. “Though I was aware of menopausal changes, I must admit that I was a little afraid too. It was at the time of hysterectomy that my gynaecologist prepared me for the sudden onslaught of changes.”
During your last few months of the menstrual cycle (with the final bleeding being a year prior to attaining menopause), the uterus-owner may experience the effects of the slow decline of the production of estrogen and progestrone by the ovaries. This is also accompanied by an increase in hormones like follicle-stimulating hormones. As with all hormonal changes (like adolescence), it is accompanied by somatic changes.
“In natural cases of [menopause], comes gradually and less harshly. In my case, there were no harmonious hormonal changes since the ovaries were removed,” shared S. “Mood swings, joint pains, flakey skin, and this may sound weird, but I missed having my periods…”
60-year-old M, who is also a cis-woman, too had had a hysterectomy at the age of 49. “I did fine emotionally and mentally through this phase, which I understand as the [conclusion] of the menstrual cycle. However, I experienced hot flashes and gradually got arthritis in the knees as a result of hormonal changes.”
While S tried to discuss her experiences with friends and find solutions, she also wishes that her family and friends could be more understanding when she would feel agitated and extra-sensitive during this phase of her life. “I have learnt that I have become less patient and edgy and rather negative in my attitude towards life - which could also be owing to circumstances. Sex life is almost non-existent as a result of being very painful,” she rued in her conversation with That Sassy Thing.
Menopause is a near-universal experience that all uterus-owners experience. While the reasons for it may be different - they can be chemically, medically or surgically induced as well as naturally occurring during middle-age - the taboo surrounding the subject is widespread. This is largely due to the esotericization of menstrual health and the wide range of experiences that people can with menopause that doesn’t allow a single, unifying narrative to explain it.
Here’s to normalizing conversations around menopause and every other aspect of menstrual health.
About the author:
Tejaswi is a media professional and researcher focused on pleasure & joy in areas of public health. Their attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things.Tejaswi is autistic and identifies as queer in more ways than one.