We interviewed Kate Codrington, a UK-based menstrual and menopause mentor, about reframing perimenopause and menopause into something more healing and positive, enjoy the conversation below.
Q: I’m so interested to hear about your study of and work with women’s experience of perimenopause and menopause, and how we can make this experience more empowering and supported. What inspired you to focus on this aspect of women’s life journey?
It was my own journey with menopause that got me started. I was in a privileged position, I was working with Alexandra Pope at Red School
, I had all the information at my fingertips, I knew I had to slow down my busy life and yet there was still
a deep fear of surrendering to menopause process. At the time I thought this was my patterns playing out but I’ve come to see that it was part of the way society sees menopause. That it is to be feared because we will lose ourselves. As I eased more deeply into the process, as I surrendered to ‘being lost’, it became a phenomenally creative time. I made new art and explored all kinds of different ways of being. It also gave me a deep intimacy with myself and respect for my inner life. My work is centred around changing the script from fear to excitement.
Q: By all accounts you have been working in an area that is surprisingly devoid of expertise, given the numbers of women in perimenopause and menopause at any one time. If you could change one thing for women struggling with symptoms at this stage of life what would that be?
A: I would take my wand and magic the cultural expectations so that menopause was cared for in the same way as pregnancy is. Can you imagine that? We’d have special seats on trains. Reduced working hours. Gentle doulas to look after us. Our partners would protect us from stress, knowing that we were in a fragile place, but something good was coming. A period of state-paid leave would be available so that we could drop our burdens and tend to our inner lives. Massive resources and armies of medics, active menopause teachers, post-menopause teachers and hypno-menopause, would be available to us. Special menopause products available, not to ‘stop the signs of aging’ with the inference that we’re falling apart, but to nourish and feed us. It’s not as insane as it sounds because both pregnancy and menopause are times of hormonal sensitivity and change, but at menopause we are giving birth to ourselves. Now, where did I put that wand?
Q: Our research at the Victorian Women’s Trust with 3460 women and girls found that, of those who had experienced menopause, only 25% felt prepared, with most of the remainder feeling distinctly unprepared. When asked what would have helped menopause (and perimenopause) be a better experience 36% said ‘reliable information, 25% said ‘being able to speak openly’, 21% said ‘not needing to make excuses’ and 18% said ‘being able to ask for help’. (Published in 2019 in the book About Bloody Time.) How is this consistent with your experience and what would you add to these indications of women’s experience?
A: The surprise for the majority of women is that perimenopause can start in their early 40’s, this is why so many feel unprepared. In fact, there can be a subtle shift in hormone balance from late 30’s which some, but not everyone, notices. We’ve been educated to expect some challenges in our late 40’s or early 50’s but only to expect flushes. So, when the psychological changes arrive; the questioning, big emotional upheavals, all that, they think they’re going mad. Added to this, the cultural idea of menopause is of disaster and decrepitude so no wonder they can’t talk about it, the whole topic is covered in shame. It absolutely breaks my heart that 18% were unable to ask for help, that’s nearly one in five! The difficulties are much the same as the difficulties around periods; sexism, historical shame, with the added spiciness of ageism thrown in. When all girls are celebrated at their menarche, I predict that menopause will no longer be a ‘problem’.
Q: Would you like to tell us more about your upcoming projects?
Alongside my regular groups, I’m running a series of free workshops, menopause pyjama parties, this year to really spread the excitement about menopause being a healing transformation. I’m a bit of a Pollyanna about it, and that can be very annoying I know, especially when you’re suffering challenging symptoms, but even I have been surprised by the thirst there is to learn about the gifts of menopause, the possibilities for transformation. Next up is Hot Flush Party
where as well as looking at the physiological process, we’ll use a wonderful meditation to explore the transformative possibilities of hot flushes.