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A moment for menopause

Two Black female hands that are wrapped together.
The stages of menopause can take a mental and physical toll, but there are ways for people during this time to find support and remedies to feel better about themselves.

One of the best ways to learn about the experience of menopause is to talk with people who’ve gone through it. Host Anita Rao turns to an expert she’s close to: her mom. And guest host Omisade Burney-Scott interviews a friend about premature menopause.

With puberty, we’re given a lot of foreshadowing about what to expect, and there’s a sense of energy around the starting of a new chapter of life. But the other end of the menstrual cycle is more uncertain, less celebrated — even less discussed. And it has implications on mental health and relationships for the folks going through it.

Anita Rao talks about how menopause is more than hot flashes and night sweats with her mom, Sheila Rao, and certified menopause practitioner Camille Moreno.

And guest host Omisade Burney-Scott, creator of the multimedia project “The Black Girl's Guide to Surviving Menopause” talks with her friend Paris Hatcher about Paris’ experience with premature ovarian failure, which made her go through menopause in her 20s. Hatcher is a queer Black visionary feminist and the founder of Black Feminist Future.

Interview Highlights

Sheila Rao on feeling the mental toll of menopause:

The physical symptoms, over time, compound. So you'll have some hot flashes, night sweats, very, very, very severe night sweats. So you know, your sleep is interrupted, you have palpitations, and I felt myself becoming increasingly anxious. I would worry about a lot of things, and [be] irritable and my mood would swing and I'd have a headache. And I'd be like: Wow, this is really bad. And I think I just tried to just jolly myself along. And I think it got to a climax in about 2014, when I just knew that I needed some help. I'm like: I'm having some mental health issues here. And I remember very clearly, I would just lay on the bed and start like howling: Oh my god, what's happening to me? Can you help me? I like literally said: Please help me.

When things become really severe, and when your symptoms become really debilitating, affecting your day to day life, then that is when you would seek help, especially if you've tried the over-the-counter options.
Camille Moreno

Paris Hatcher on going through menopause at a young age and finding community to share her experiences:

I was alone. It was hard to describe. I would try to look it up, like the symptoms that I was experiencing. I couldn't really find anything. … [There’s] been so much that's changed, even in the last five years. So now I'm in a Facebook group for people all across the world, actually, that have this similar diagnosis. And just that alone is amazing. Like, there's actually people that I can ask, we can ask each other questions, recommendations around medication, dosage, variety of things, that is amazing. I did not have any type of community. And, you know, when I was on this path, they were always trying to figure out: So what's the source? And for many of us, there is no, like, a clear why. … Some folks, it's genetic. Some folks, it is based on some type of health issue they've had previously or exposure to chemotherapy. But there's just a bunch of us who don't know why. So that's also been another path that I went down.

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Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
Kaia Findlay is the lead producer of Embodied, WUNC's weekly podcast and radio show about sex, relationships and health. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.