The former US first lady has used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) since a hot flush hit her when she was on the presidential helicopter on the way to an event with her husband Barack.
“It was like somebody put a furnace in my core and turned it on high, and then everything started melting. I thought, ‘Well, this is crazy. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this!'”
Michelle, 59, says women should be able to talk openly about what they’re going through. She points out that men may be more understanding than we realise, using her husband as an example.
“Barack was surrounded by women in his Cabinet, many going through menopause, and he could see it because sweat would start pouring,” says Michelle. “But he didn’t fall apart because he found out there were several women on his staff going through menopause. He was just sort of like, ‘Oh, well, turn the air conditioner on.'”
The actor and website founder reckons menopause needs a “good re-branding” so we’re no longer too embarrassed to talk about it.
“For me, I’m solidly in perimenopause,” says Gwyneth, 51. “Everything is totally irregular and a surprise all the time. My emotions are all over the place as well. Sometimes I get in bed at night and my heart races. The hormones really are no joke.”
Hot flushes have been a nightmare for US TV host Gayle, 68, who says sometimes she has “dripping, drenching sweats”.
She tells, “I’ve been on the red carpet where photographers say, ‘Gayle, are you okay?’ I go, ‘It’s just a hot flush’, and they go, ‘Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry.'”
She believes the more menopause is talked about, the better.
“I think it’s good we’re saying, ‘Yes, menopause, hot flushes, dry vagina…’ It’s all part of it.”
Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh
Prince Edward’s wife has spoken out about how menopause can affect women at work, citing her own experiences. She says the change has caused issues with her memory.
“You suddenly can’t remember what on earth it was you were talking about. Try being on an engagement when that happens. Your words just go. You stand there, going, ‘Hang on, I thought I was a reasonably intelligent person. What has just happened to me?'”
Sophie, 58, adds, “It’s like someone has just gone and taken your brain out for however long before they pop it back in again, and you try and pick up the pieces and carry on.”
She says talking about menopause shouldn’t be taboo.
“Really, we should be celebrating the fact we don’t have to have periods any more. It should be a liberation, but it feels like it’s a shackle because it’s been described as something that’s incredibly negative.”
The chat-show host had never talked to anyone about menopause symptoms, so when she started experiencing them in her late 40s, she wasn’t sure what was going on.
“For two years, I didn’t sleep well – never a full night. Restlessness and heart palpitations were my constant companions at night. I went to see a cardiologist, took medication and wore a heart monitor for weeks.”
Oprah, 69, realised her problems were due to menopause after reading a book that happened to be in the Oprah Winfrey Show offices, and she was inspired to mention menopause whenever she could on her programme because nobody was talking about it.
“Until that point in my adult life, I don’t recall one serious conversation with another woman about what to expect. I’d heard about hot flushes, but I wasn’t prepared for palpitations. After my menstrual cycle stopped for good at 53, I wasn’t prepared to have such difficulty concentrating. Reading, my favourite pastime, became a chore. I wasn’t vibrant. My whole world dulled down a couple of notches.”
The actor recently received a special recognition honour at the British National Television Awards for her portrayal of policewoman Catherine Cawood in the TV series Happy Valley, but she admits that when the camera wasn’t on her, she sat in the audience madly fanning her face due to a hot flush.
“I’m having the most terrible menopause,” she says, explaining that it’s not just overheating that is causing issues. “I’ve got brain fog. I was in Sainsbury’s [supermarket] the other day and I found myself just stood there in the aisle. I could not for the life of me remember what I was there for. It just comes over you all of a sudden. I can’t remember things that happened 30 years ago either.”
Sarah, 59, is currently using an HRT gel, but says it’s not great, so she plans to switch to patches. She’s all for women speaking about their experiences. “Things are changing, but they have needed to change for a long time.”