The complete menopause glossary
Mystified by some of the language around menopause? Here's the best who's who you'll need
Despite being a biological process experienced by roughly half the population, the conversation around the menopause is dominated by euphemisms that do little to help people understand the health effects or challenges women face.
To help demystify some of this language, the experts at the language learning app, Babbel, have shared a glossary to explain the meaning around both familiar and less common menopause euphemisms.
Baby factory is closed
For centuries, a woman’s body was compared to a factory or a machine. This resulted in a disempowerment of women, establishing any perfectly normal biological changes they faced as failures. Periods signified the inability to conceive and ultimately, menopause represented the definite end of a woman’s “sole purpose” of bearing children.
While phrases such as “the baby factory is closed” were coined on Reddit as an attempt to bring levity to conversations around menopause, it should be acknowledged that the menopause can seriously affect the mental health of people who are no longer able to produce children, as it carries the societal stigma of a failed reproductive system. Using jovial phrases which trivialise a serious issue for many can be unhelpful to conversations around menopause.
Hot flushes or night sweats are experienced by 80 per cent of menopausal women, meaning some describe this time as their own “internal furnace”. The language used to describe the symptom is often very vivid, compared to a “thermometer going up and down” or a sensation similar to “going under a sunbed”.
This is something that affects many women for extended periods of time. Especially in the workplace, some women feel uncomfortable and self-conscious, fearing their professional image might suffer due to the symptoms they face every day.
Our language surrounding hot flushes rarely recognises them as a debilitating problem, and more often views them as a joke.
While many euphemisms around the menopause are designed to avoid confronting frank language around the subject, some of them can be far more to the point.
One such phrase is “ovarian retirement”, describing the after-effects of the menopause once the ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing progesterone and oestrogen.
"Our language surrounding hot flushes rarely recognises them as a debilitating problem, and more often views them as a joke"
Despite the ominous name, “nightcrawlers” describes a lesser known but perfectly normal (albeit uncomfortable) symptom of the menopause. As the hormone levels in the body decrease, the production of collagen oil, which smoothes the skin, decreases, which can lead to drier and thinner skin, making it feel itchy.
“The change’” is possibly the most common and often used phrase that is interchangeable with the term menopause. It’s especially apt as women experience both physical and psychological changes, due to the hormonal changes that occur during this time.
The term often has negative connotations, when in reality, it simply describes the process of the female body nearing the end of its menstrual cycles and stops releasing eggs, a fundamental part of aging.
There are still new terms being invented around the menopause, as the wide range of effects that come with it become the subject of more open conversation. The term “super-soaker event” introduced by Canadian gynaecologist and author of The Menopause Manifesto, Dr Jen Gunter, describes heavy bleeding during menopause.
While this is rarely discussed publicly, it can be a cause of self-consciousness and annoyance for people who experience it, in addition to the need for adapting to sometimes very irregular cycles. Having new terms to describe this particular side effect of menopause can help to emphasise that it is a normal part of menopause which should be destigmatised.
Not all names given to menopause paint it as a negative process. In China, menopause is sometimes called the “second spring”, alluding to the idea that it can be thought of positively as entering a new stage of life.
Embracing this more accepting terminology around menopause helps to frame it as a natural part of the aging process, which shouldn’t be treated as a taboo.
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