It's World Menopause Day
Now that's a sentence I didn't think I'd write three years ago, when publishers told me they didn't know who would buy a book about menopause! Erm... Anyway, here are just some of The Shift With Sam Baker podcast guests who have inspired, informed and motivated me to keep banging on about menopause and midlife
The first guest of season two, back in 2020, Karen is the founder of Menopause Whilst Black (Opens in a new window), a movement she launched in the summer of that year. And in a few short months MWB and Karen herself had become a force to be reckoned with in the "menopause community" which was, and still is, very white and middle class. For the first three decades of her working life, Karen was a teacher. Then she had a breakdown that caused her to rethink everything about her life. She recreated herself as a fashion designer, activist, campaigner, model and set about giving black menopausal women a much-needed voice. On the podcast, Karen was eye-openingly honest about what can happen when you hit a wall and don’t even know who you are any more.
I was thrilled when Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed to come on the pod to talk openly for the first time about menopause, back in January. First Minister of Scotland since 2015, she has been dubbed one of the most powerful women in British politics, if not in Britain, and she shows no sign of stopping. Nicola joined me remotely to talk about what it means to be a fiftysomething woman in the corridors of power, “being in the foothills of menopause”, preparing to take HRT and what happens if you have a hot flush in parliament. It’s always been my aim to ask powerful women to speak up about menopause so I was delighted Nicola was up for having this conversation.
We have Mariella to thank for the noise the menopause movement is making today, because she was banging the menopause drum back in 2018 when her own ignorance about her symptoms at first shocked her and then prompted her to do something about it. The resulting documentary, The Truth About Menopause, was a smash hit almost five years ago. She came on the podcast last Menopause Awareness Day and talked candidly about everything from menopause ignorance to sleeplessness to “the bubble of poison bile” that surrounds the whole subject! She also had plenty to say about the insidiousness of women being “scrap heaped” at 50, why fearlessness is so much sexier than the ability to look 28 and why the time has come to just stop bloody putting up with it! (Since then she has co-founded The Menopause Mandate (Opens in a new window) campaign.)
Dr Jen Gunter
Jen is at the vanguard of the menopause movement on the other side of the Atlantic. The best way I can think of to describe her is a women's health vigilante. Dubbed twitter’s resident gynaecologist, Jen is the living embodiment of “information is power”. She has made it her life’s mission to give you the information you need to make life better for you – and for your vagina. And in the eighteen months since she came on The Shift podcast, she's only got more vocal! Characteristically no-bull, she talked menopause, mental health, why we all need to know WTF is going on and why women need more menopausal role models. And whatever you do, don’t get her started on manufacturers who think shoving “meno” in front of a product name is a licence to print money…!
I’ve lost count of the number of women I’ve spoken to who were taken totally by surprise by perimenopause but, until I spoke to Christie, back in the spring, none of them actually had medical training. Before she was an award winning writer, Christie was a nurse. (She spent 20 years on children’s intensive care and wrote two bestselling nursing memoirs.) But when, aged 42, she found herself a “blubbering snot crying wreck” in Sainsburys car park, she had no idea she was on the cusp of perimenopause. Christie talked menopause shock, grey pubic hairs, biblical bleeding, and the impact of unresolved trauma. Plus braving the dating shark tank as a 42-year-old single mum of two, having her own personal menopause club and the joy of becoming visible to older women.
Last but not least, the woman who started it all. The woman who, when I said, 'I'm going to start a podcast where women over 40 tell it like it is and I promise it won't be crap, will you come on?' said, 'sure I will, that'd be grand'. Marian Keyes was the first person to come on The Shift with Sam Baker and talk candidly about her experience of menopause. The unvarnished truth – and then some – about menopause (how different would it be if it happened to men???), invisibility, infertility grief, HRT, Botox and learning to be shameless. So, without Marian, there would be no The Shift. Yet another thing we have to thank her for...
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