Menopausal Mom? Empathise – and Take Her to This Exclusive Club!
Menopause isn’t imaginary – but when it does strike, you now have the option of going to a classy new club!
When Samantha in Sex and the City 2 spent the entire movie flinging her jacket off to fan herself and go gallivanting about an unfamiliar Abu Dhabi looking for her ‘pills and creams’, a whole subsection of an erstwhile mute Hollywood population sat up and rejoiced. Despite the film’s obviously cartoonish caricature of certain aspects of menopause – think: sudden absences and equally sudden reappearances of libido in a week – the unthinkable had been done. Someone had said the ‘M’ word in cinema.
Back home, in India, there are two ‘M’s to contend with: menstruation and menopause. Neither’s seen great strides in cinematic representation – but while the former is at least implied by one shot of a glossy, green Whisper pack, there is no empty boudoir drawer to imply Aunty Flo went AWOL.
Menopause is a time in a woman’s life when periods stop completely and she is unable to bear children. While the average age worldwide for menopause is 50 – and 48 in India – a recent study has established a drop in the age at which women are hitting menopause. The Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) has reported that nearly 4 percent of women now experience menopause as early as between the ages of 29 and 34, and 8 percent hit menopause between 35 and 39.
Also Read: Oh Snap! Makeup Can Trigger Early Menopause
While premature ovarian failure (POF) is cited as one of the primary causes for this abrupt drop, lifestyle changes over the decades – such as smoking, increased work stress, changing food habits, cancers of various parts of the body can all lead to early onset menopause.
Dr Bandana Sodhi, obstetrician-gynaecologist at Moolchand Medcity, says:
Menopause means a period when the menstrual cycle comes to a cessation. A woman has to be mentally prepared for that. There will be mood swings, periods of depression, irritation, hot flashes, pain in the bones and joints. These are not imagined illnesses – emotionally, it is a very major change for a woman.
But if it weren’t hard enough already to battle this on a physical and psychological front, menopausal women also have to contend with a constant barrage of sniggers, bad jokes and an abysmal lack of sensitivity.
At a family reunion once, when waiting upon a 50-year-old female relative who was yet to show, a male cousin finally lost his patience and started talking about how she was “always unpredictable, you just never know with her”. He finally ended the tirade with a smirk and a conspiratorial – “she’s probably going through menopause” – flourish. The “probably going through menopause” jab – only slightly less common than its younger cousin, “she’s obviously PMS-ing” – is a hurtful barb nevertheless, and heavily symptomatic of your lack of knowledge and understanding.
Dr Sodhi cannot stress enough on the need for people around a woman going through menopause to adjust to the transition:
I always ensure that the husband/partner is present when I consult a menopausal client. He must understand that he should deal with her in a very gentle manner. Because one other major problem that a menopausal woman faces is vaginal dryness, as a result of which her sex life gets affected. In such a scenario, the partner or the spouse needs to be additionally understanding.
Dr Sodhi, however, insists that women receive counselling to understand that this is just a temporary phase, and that there is light at the end of the chaotic transitional tunnel.
Dr Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist and trauma expert, practises an empowering message of self-help.
A lot of women dread the ‘M’ word. But it’s important to understand that if you have the right protocol worked out for yourself, you WILL be okay. So many women are juggling everything at once – career, making their husbands, children, bosses – everybody around them happy – that they lose parts of themselves. Every time a client comes to me, I ask her: what is the one thing you have done for yourself today? Menopause strikes earlier and hits you hardest when you’re stressed; when you’re overweight because you haven’t been taking care of yourself. You NEED to make time for yourself.
And Now, a Menopause Club...
When my mother underwent menopause over a decade ago, I was in my teens and not entrusted with the information. Information that she later confided in me – one that consisted of submitting silently to hot flashes and searing joint pains she thought no one would understand. Ask an aunt or an older relative – they will most likely tell you they chose to undergo the transition on their own, in the absence of an outlet.
A whole new crop of women are now heading straight to a club, built exclusively for them! Club 35+ is the latest addition to the Indian Menopause Society (IMS). Founded by the Society’s President Jaideep Malhotra in 2010, the club has been steadily gaining popularity over the years – with as many as 43 chapters in various Indian cities.
While the club brings together women from all walks of life, it also aims to educate them – not just about menopause, but also about their general well being. One session in Agra was devoted wholly to teaching women ‘how to pick the right bra’. (A life lesson, if ever there was one.)
Most importantly, though? The club aims to foster bonds.
It’s a place like no other for women above the ages of 35 who want to understand their bodies better. On this forum, there is no shame, no guilt. The women who show up for the meetings are all trying to help themselves; I have seen women really come into their own. More than anything else, it becomes a place to bond, for the attendees. This is especially true for women who live alone, or don’t have a husband or a partner. They realise they are not alone.Dr Shobhana Mohandas, Honorary Secretary General, IMS
Dr Sodhi and Dr Hingorrany both believe a club like this one is a great idea. While the former stresses on the need for a support system, Dr Hingorrany firmly believes that such support comes best from ‘hanging out with like-minded people’.
And perhaps that is just the space Club 35+ fills. It creates a space for women to just be, sans labels.
After all, when you’ve accepted the unremitting exigencies of your body for a good 40 odd years, surely you owe it yourself to put your feet up, on your own time?
(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)
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