For three years now, Scotland has been hosting the “Flush Festival,” the only menopause festival in the world. For two days, there are lectures on hormone therapies, seminars on cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational training, chanting “Go, Meno” together, yoga and nutrition workshops, music and cabaret. Advocates discuss with visitors how to fight menopause discrimination in the workplace. 

2,000 women descended on the small town of Perth in 2019, with producers from around the world offering stalls selling what’s good for the menopausal body: cotton jersey underwear to reduce sweating, teas to ease vaginal dryness, sea buckthorn pulp oil to regenerate skin, toilet seats to help with constipation; plugs to make urethras narrower, hand fans, hypoallergenic lubricants, incontinence panties.

It’s the ancillary stuff that can supposedly make life with all the apocalyptic horsemen more bearable when they come charging in at a storm gallop during perimenopause. To name just a few of them: Weight gain, poor digestion, the elasticity of many organs such as the bladder or rectum decreases, incontinence, dryness of the vagina, hair, skin, headaches, and a period that can become so heavy in the meantime that the shower looks like after a bloodbath, problems with memory, concentration problems, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, heartburn, hair falling out and others growing where you don’t want them: on the upper lip.

In addition, one in two women in their mid-40s or older are affected by joint pain, which is also often caused by the age-related drop in estrogen levels. In the morning, the immobility in the joints is typically particularly pronounced, which explains why on some days growing up you feel as if you had ridden across Mongolia yesterday. 

The list seems dismayingly long, the reason for the accumulation of all that is initially viewed in horror as deterioration in time: in perimenopause, the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are no longer produced by the ovaries with the same regularity as during the regular monthly cycle rhythm of the reproductive years. The number of eggs – approximately one million at birth, most of which gradually die unused – decreases. At the end of 30, about 25,000 of the original oocytes are still left. When approaching the last menstruation, the body sometimes releases none, sometimes several oocytes. And this brings the strong fluctuations of all hormones. The monthly cycle can shorten, miss a few months, and bleeding can become heavier. After about 455 menstrual periods, during which an egg could be fertilized – at about 52 years of age – no egg exists anymore and the last menstrual bleeding occurs, the menopause, the ovaries no longer produce estrogen.

eine Frau hält einen ovalen Spiegel, der an einem Band hängt

“Every day, I stand in front of the mirror and watch my body closely,” said a friend. “It’s like every morning I see a new wrinkle, a new dent. ” “When I was 30, I had a lot of things wrong with my body,” said another. “Now, I’d like to have that exact body again.” 

And then there are those in the circle of acquaintances who do everything they can to age as agelessly as possible. For whom every year’s birthday is the winking 39th, and who take hormones before they’re even in menopause. Estrogen seems to many to be the promise of prolonged optical youth. The active ingredients are also made into gels, and so permanent 39-year-olds fake menopausal problems to their doctor to get the hyped hot stuff and stop the dreaded decline. Not only do they apply the gel to their inner upper arms as recommended, but they also slather it directly on dark circles, hamster cheeks, and wrinkling cleavage. “Anything that helps is good, side effects don’t matter,” said one acquaintance. The fact that this must be viewed in a much more differentiated way is discussed in the article on hormone therapy.

What helps the body, both inside and out, during this period of radical restructuring is now increasingly becoming the focus of the cosmetics, nutrition, healing, and clothing industries. For example, some fashion brands have begun producing T-shirts, nightgowns, underwear, and leggings made of fabrics that cool the skin and absorb sweat, including, for example, “Become” from Sri Lanka, which has developed clothing with built-in heat-fighting technology.

With good reason: By 2030, 1.2 billion women worldwide are said to be menopausal, says Kelli Jaecks of Oregon/USA, who is a keynote speaker on menopause and author of the book “Martinis and Menopause.” That’s 1.2 billion women who want to know what’s happening to their bodies and how best to deal with it on an individual basis.

A hundred years ago, the tips for the woman with menopausal symptoms were: Don’t eat sausage, especially before bedtime. Take a sponge and wash your body three times a day with flavored vinegar. Place several leeches on your anus. Take only milk for one day every fifteen days. Drink the bone marrow of freshly killed animals. Get a transfusion of the dog’s blood.

Times are changing. Fortunately.

The next post is about porcelain-shattering rage, an outrageous Sigmund Freud, and invisibility.