A personal plea to healthcare marketers.
By: Hayley O’Donnell, Senior Copywriter at Inizio Evoke.
Here I am, a mere 45 years old and already on my fun little journey with the menopause. I’m what we call ‘perimenopausal’ which, for me, has been one of the trickiest times of my life.
Along with the many symptoms, which did their best to steal my sunshine, the main overriding feeling for me has been shock – utter shock about this new world I’ve unwillingly stepped into.
This here blog is a call to action for healthcare marketers. Because I truly believe we have the power to make life so much easier for people going through the menopause.
Just thinking about Inizio Evoke, we already have a big focus on health equality. For some time now, we’ve been delivering award-winning content to highlight the urgent, unmet need when it comes to health marketing for women and people with a cervix. But we need others to join us on our mission. Before I get into all of that, let me tell you how the big ‘M’ all began for me.
Menopause, mothering, and meetings
I first noticed my symptoms at night. I couldn’t sleep. I’d toss and turn until morning, and then I was, of course, exhausted all day. And the anxiety, oh the anxiety. I was so highly strung that I could swing from grumpy to tears in a nanosecond.
My partner, son, and step kids were treading on eggshells. And I was ALWAYS there, being tetchy, because I was no longer interested in going out. Being horizontal on the sofa was my favourite. Netflix was my hobby.
It’ll come as no surprise, I’m sure, that work was also a real struggle at this time. My brain was foggy, I couldn’t remember words in meetings (which is very problematic for a copywriter) and every brief felt insurmountable. My confidence hit rock bottom. I doubted every concept I created and every headline I wrote.
Luckily for me, I’ve been gifted with the habit of oversharing, so I was very vocal with my family, my friends and my colleagues about my state of mind. Thankfully, during all these chats, the subject of menopause began to crop up. Even though I felt far too young for this period of my life, especially because my mum was in her 50s when it all began for her, I checked the symptoms.
Anxiety – check
Insomnia – check
Hot flushes – check
Periods changing – check
Brain fog – check
Mood swings – check
It took about six months for all this to click into place. And when it did, I got myself straight to the doctors.
Me, me, back to me
I took the doctor’s advice and gave Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) a whirl. Though it’s not right for everyone, this was my best decision ever. Within two weeks, a dark cloud lifted, and I was back to my old self. My partner and children breathed a collective sigh of relief. But no one was happier than me. Since then, I’ve been trying to work out why I found the whole process so hard.
What I’ve landed on is this: the symptoms took me by surprise. I was completely overwhelmed by the range of ways in which I could feel terrible. It was, quite honestly, life changing. And not in a good way.
So, what would have helped me? And what can help other people going through this momentous time in their lives?
Menopause, marketing, and meaningfulness
Though we’ve made a great start here in the UK (I’m sure we all remember Davina McCall and her Channel 4 programme that got people everywhere talking about the menopause), we need to do more. First, we need better representation in the media and our marketing.
In everything I’ve seen so far about the menopause, I haven’t seen ‘me’ anywhere. I see much older people (bar Davina) with very different lives. And so, these campaigns don’t mean anything to me.
I imagine lots of other people must feel the same way. In fact, 76% of menopausal women in the UK say they don’t feel they are represented by brands. Just think how people even younger than me feel – those who go through early menopause before they even hit their 40s. They must feel completely alone.
Next, we need to talk more explicitly about the range of symptoms. This is so important to help people prepare (and be less shocked than I was). One study showed that menopausal women recognised only five of the symptoms (hot flushes, night sweats, tiredness, sleep difficulties and irregular periods). This is despite experts saying there are 62 in all.
But it’s this stat from the same study that got me:
‘Just three percent understood their feelings of dizziness, loss of confidence or loss of joy were directly linked to the change in their hormone levels.’
Think about that for a second. You feel dizzy, unconfident and sapped of all joy, but you don’t know why… imagine how worried and scared you’d be. Without answers, it’s easy to spiral into a very dark place.
But we can change all this. We can make life better for countless people. Inclusive campaigns that raise awareness of the symptoms of the menopause are well within our reach in healthcare marketing.
But is this enough? Will this create long-term change for the 51% of us in the UK who will go through the menopause? If we couple this with the big changes taking place in UK secondary schools, I think so, yes.
Menopause, ministers, and modules
90% of 947 perimenopausal women say they weren’t taught about the menopause at school. Yet 83.6% say this would be the best place for menopause education to start.
The good news is that, back in 2019, ministers announced that the menopause would be taught in secondary schools – as a module within Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). And, in September 2020, it was added to the English school curriculum. What an absolute game-changer.
In the future, people will go into the menopausal time of their lives fully armed with knowledge and a plan of action. They’ll understand the science behind the changes in their bodies and know, with some degree of certainty, what’s happening and why.
Things are going to be great in the future. But right now, we need to create more noise about the menopause. So, let’s use our healthcare platforms to raise awareness. Let’s be as inclusive as we can and as explicit as we can, so everyone is as clued up as possible before they see the menopause coming over the horizon. And let’s talk to each other. Let’s be open and honest and help each other through this extraordinary time of our lives.
Oh, and one final thing, to find out how Inizio Evoke is making health more human™ for women and everybody with a cervix, just get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. https://www.contagious.com/news-and-views/ignoring-the-menopause-is-not-just-bad-for-women-its-bad-business. 2. https://www.scotsman.com/read-this/women-associate-menopause-with-just-five-symptoms-despite-experts-warning-there-are-62-3863061. 3. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmselect/cmwomeq/91/report.html#:~:text=Some%20trans%20men%20and%20non,may%20also%20experience%20menopausal%20symptoms.&text=2.,menopause%2C%20even%20amongst%20women%20themselves. 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9244939/. 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9244939/.