“Normal is a Setting on Your Dryer” with Shirley Weir
S1, E2
November 15, 2022

Christine Maginnis:

Hey friends, the views of our guests do not necessarily reflect the views of Let's Talk Menopause. Let's Talk Menopause does not provide medical advice. The content in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions that you may have.

Speaker 2:

Your body's preparing to finish up.

Speaker 3:

We're all going to go through it and none of us know anything about it.

Speaker 4:

This has been our topic of conversation when we go out, because she can't believe that doctors are so clueless about menopause. You have to ask questions. They're not going to offer information up to you.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Do you know what perimenopause is?

Speaker 6:

No.

Speaker 7:

I've never even heard that term.

Speaker 8:

I've never heard of it either.

Speaker 9:

I believe it is the stages before menopause.

Speaker 10:

Right, I mean, everybody cycles different.

Robin Gelfenbien:

When's the last time your OB-GYN talked to you about menopause?

Speaker 11:

Unless I brought it up, never.

Speaker 12:

At my postpartum checkup.

Speaker 13:

They talk about pregnancy like that's openly talked about a lot.

Speaker 14:

I wish doctors will educate us more.

Speaker 15:

I don't see an OB-GYN.

Christine Maginnis:

This is Hello Menopause, podcast where you'll hear real menopause stories from real people.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Whispering behind closed doors, not here.

Christine Maginnis:

We promise, it is not just in your head.

Robin Gelfenbien:

And you are not alone.

Christine Maginnis:

I'm your host, Christine Maginnis,

Robin Gelfenbien:

And I'm your other host, Robin Gelfenbien. Let's Talk Menopause.

Christine Maginnis:

Welcome to Hello Menopause.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Hello Christine.

Christine Maginnis:

Hello Robin.

Robin Gelfenbien:

At the top of today's episode, you heard our menopause on the street segment. Now, if you're not familiar, this is where I go out on the streets of New York City and I talk to total strangers about the last topic they would ever expect, menopause.

Christine Maginnis:

I like the woman who said, "I think it's just your body's preparing to finish up," and it kind of tickled me a little bit because I remember thinking the same thing, except finish up what?

Given the fact that you do live on average 30 years after reaching menopause, it's almost as if women are discarded like, boom, you've reached menopause. You're kind of done. Maybe she means finish up in terms of being reproductive. But just speaking for myself, I'm not quite finished. I have a lot left to do.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Well, having spoken to her, you are right. She was talking about just like, I'm tired of periods. I'm tired of tampons. That's what she meant by finishing.

Christine Maginnis:

Right.

Robin Gelfenbien:

What really struck me, and it struck me in the moment, was the, I don't see an OB-GYN. That one gutted me and I was so happy I had a mask on, so she couldn't really tell that my mouth was like, ugh, what? She was very, very young, I think she was like maybe 21, 22. But that one, it just gutted me.

Christine Maginnis:

Right. It strikes a nerve. It definitely does.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Christine Maginnis:

There's so much to unpack there too, because if you have a good healthcare insurance plan, you can see an OB-GYN. But there are so many people who have little to no coverage, who not only do they not have an OB-GYN, they don't have a primary care doctor and their source of healthcare is that they go to an urgent care when they're sick and that breaks my heart.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Yeah. What else stood out to you from this montage?

Christine Maginnis:

The fact that nobody knows what perimenopause means.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Totally.

Christine Maginnis:

I'm not so sure I knew what it meant to be fair. I think a lot of women have never heard of it until they arrive there. And I know when texting or sometimes when I'm typing a document, spell check doesn't recognize it as a word. It comes up...

Robin Gelfenbien:

That says everything.

Christine Maginnis:

... as if I don't know this word, or what is this you speak of? I think we have a lot of work there.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Yeah, I obviously heard it over the course of a few hours because I was talking to so many people. But when you hear them back to back, it's just like, it's very, very eyeopening. Not surprising, but it's clear that there's a lot of education that needs to happen.

Christine Maginnis:

Right. And there's a recent study that said that almost half or more, like 45% of women had no clue what the difference was between perimenopause and menopause.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Thank you for that statistic, Christine. Christine is our stats girl here at Let's Talk Menopause. The other one that jumped out at me, it was pretty early on I think, where she said something like, "We're all going to go through it and none of us know anything about it." And I was like, yes, pretty much.

Christine Maginnis:

Right, right.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Which is really sad.

Christine Maginnis:

Yeah. There's just such a knowledge gap. And I was sort of thinking about why when I heard her say that, and there's a lot of reasons, but I think a big one is stigma and taboo. We know about getting our periods and most women know what to expect when they're expecting, but menopause seems to have been behind closed doors for so long and in a strange way as if you take two topics, people don't want to talk about, aging and vagina. You put aging vagina together and it makes it something people don't feel comfortable talking about.

Robin Gelfenbien:

I just thought of the new menopause word because you were talking about the collision of aging and vagina. It's vaging.

Christine Maginnis:

That's a good one. That's a good one.

Robin Gelfenbien:

It sounds vaping, so it has...

Christine Maginnis:

We should talk about vaging.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Vaging. Yeah, anti vaging.

Christine Maginnis:

Yes, exactly. And I thought it was interesting how the one person said, "Have you talked to your doctor about it?" And they said, "Not unless I bring it up." And that's something we hear quite often and we hope through the work of Let's Talk Menopause to make it a standard of care that your doctor before you reach perimenopause will discuss it with you, or at least have information to give you that you can take home and be informed.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Right. It's like the doctors should have their own checklist. You have that checklist of symptoms on your website, but it's like the doctors should have a checklist of sorts too.

Christine Maginnis:

Right. It's sort of like when women are getting their period, it falls to the family, often the mother to say, "Here's what's going to happen." And then when you are pregnant, there are so many books and it's such a positive thing that people are overjoyed for you and there's all kinds of resources. It almost seems at a time when you are going through perimenopause and you have aging parents, so whose job is it to tell you what comes next and at what point in a woman's life does she get that information? All right. Without further ado, let's get into our conversation with our guest for today.

We are so excited to speak with Shirley Weir, a self-proclaimed menopause chick and a woman's health advocate. She is the founder of Menopause Chicks, an online platform that connects women to experts and a supportive community. She's also the author of the book, Mokita: How to Navigate Perimenopause with Confidence and Ease. Shirley's work encourages women to put their health first and reminds them that they are not alone. Here is our conversation with the lovely Shirley Weir. Thank you for joining us today, Shirley. Could you introduce yourself to our listeners?

Shirley Weir:

Absolutely. My name is Shirley Weir and I am a menopause chick. Woohoo. Something I never thought growing up that I would be here to say. But I host a private online community called Menopause Chicks on Facebook and I consider myself a women's health advocate. My job is to support women and help them navigate perimenopause to menopause and beyond with more confidence and ease.

Christine Maginnis:

Great. I feel so lucky to have you with us today and I really want to dig deep, but I'm going to start by sharing something that you wrote because I just loved it that much. When I was 39, my breast started to hurt. Two years later during a pap smear, I told my doctor I was struggling with sleep deprivation, brain fog, anxiety, and depression for the first time in my life. I told her I thought I might be experiencing the first signs of menopause. She looked at me and my chart and said, "You're 41, you're too young for menopause."

Shirley Weir:

True story.

Christine Maginnis:

How did that feel?

Shirley Weir:

Well, it felt quite confusing and a little bit dismissive, but my doctor wasn't wrong. I was 41 and the average age of menopause in North America is 51.2. I didn't even have the right language to communicate to my physician that day, who by the way, I absolutely loved this woman. I had just gone to that particular appointment thinking that it was going to be a bit of a love fest between my doctor who's 10 years older than I was and I was going to walk away feeling informed and empowered and instead I felt a little bit crushed and I felt that what I was experiencing must be all in my head and that was debilitating.

At 41, I was not too young for menopause. I was in the early stages of perimenopause. When I look back on what was really happening in my life right then was I was sleep deprived as you read and depressed for the first time and debilitating brain fog, I was stressed out. I wanted to blame perimenopause. I didn't know anything about cortisol or stress management. And it's just I look at back at it now as really a gift that has opened up this conversation for us.

Christine Maginnis:

I would love to jump in there just for the sake of edifying our listeners, if they don't already know the difference between the word perimenopause and menopause. Could you help me with that?

Shirley Weir:

Absolutely. The true definition of menopause, although it does get used as an umbrella term, menopause is one day. It's the 12 month anniversary of your very last period. It can be a celebration. It can be a day to invent a cupcake or a cocktail, but it's one day. And perimenopause is a phase of life that women go through when their bodies, hormones start to fluctuate. It's different for everyone. Perimenopause does not mean suffering and it does not mean symptoms. It means your hormones are fluctuating in preparation for menopause. So peri means around. We don't really have a lot of research on perimenopause because the term itself was only coined in 1996, which is relatively new in the overall scheme of health research and then post-menopause. Post-menopause is every day after that cupcake or cocktail celebration for the rest of your life.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Do you have a cupcake or a cocktail on the anniversary of your last day? It's been six years, so is this an annual thing?

Shirley Weir:

I'm not so bloody Mary. I might have a cocktail every day. I don't know if I have a cocktail in every anniversary, but I did host the first, what I believe to be the only online anniversary party or some of the media called it graduation. We are the first generation of women to reach 50 or to reach midlife and have another 50 years to plan for. It's a celebration of, wooh, I made it, but it's also this incredible window of opportunity that we're all standing at and saying, wow, I'm headed for 85 or a 100 and this is what I want my health and my life to look like for the next three to five decades.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Yeah, it's a wonderful thing to celebrate. I wanted to get back to your symptoms specifically because I want to better understand what you were thinking and what you were experiencing at the time. So you mentioned a few of them, the insomnia, the anxiety, and I was curious to know, was it hard to delineate like this is truly anxiety or this is just overall stress in my life? How were you able to wrestle with that?

Shirley Weir:

It's a great question, Robin. I don't even know if I identified at the time with the impacts of stress. I don't know. I know that what I really wanted that day when I went to see my doctor was to be ahead of the curve. I was like, I don't have time for any of this to take me down and I really had that philosophy around my health. The road was a little wiggly, but I think I've landed now in terms of what I know is right for me on this journey.

Christine Maginnis:

I had a similar reaction when I went into what then was called premature ovarian failure. I went into menopause quite young. I was recently married, I think I was 34, just turning 35.

Shirley Weir:

Wow.

Christine Maginnis:

I went to my doctor because I knew something was wrong and my libido had just taken a nose dive. I felt lethargic, brain fog. I just couldn't think straight. I was putting on weight really rapidly. And when I went, she really didn't hear me. I left there in tears, which is not something I'm quick to do, but it felt like I went saying, I know something isn't right and the door was closed in my face. It was a terrible feeling.

Shirley Weir:

I'm sorry to hear that that was your experience. What many women don't understand is that hormone health is not taught in medical school. The content in medical school around menopause, the end of reproduction for women is one hour in length. And we do rely heavily on our family physicians to know a lot of information about a lot of different health conditions, remedies, medication, et cetera. Then I show up and I say something like, "Well, my libido's low, my breasts are sore." And the doctor looks at you and they're like, I don't have a clue. I don't know what to do.

Christine Maginnis:

Almost implying, you're wasting my time. I've got bigger fish to fry.

Shirley Weir:

A little bit.

Christine Maginnis:

Yeah.

Robin Gelfenbien:

I know that you experienced anxiety and depression, but you had never experienced any of that before. Did you feel any shame around that?

Shirley Weir:

It's interesting that you asked this question. I don't know that I felt shame around anxiety. I might have even wore it as a bit of a badge, if that makes sense. But there was definitely shame and quietness associated with the word depression.

Christine Maginnis:

I think you throw insomnia into the mix. It's such a vicious cycle because one causes the other and the more tired you are, the less you're able to cope well and deal with things.

Shirley Weir:

It's so true. I often refer to this process not having a magic wand and that it's more like solving a Rubik's cube. And so you might work on that sleep hygiene for example, and you look and you're like, oh look, I got the whole blue side. And then you turn it over and you're like, oh yeah, right. But the rest of it's messed up.

Robin Gelfenbien:

It's a great analogy.

Christine Maginnis:

Yeah, it is.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Going back to one of the symptoms you mentioned, brain fog. I think a lot of us think of it like, oh, you just lost your train of thought, but it sounds like there's more to it than that. Can you elaborate on it?

Shirley Weir:

I sure can. I still struggle with brain fog. One of the things that I have learned is it is a symptom of high stress and burnout. It's also a symptom of iron deficiency, which is something that I have wrestled with my whole life, even more so when I was pregnant. But brain fog is debilitating, especially when you're self-employed and you're like, "Wait a second, I was able to make a list, but I wasn't able to crank up my mojo to get the engine started to get through that list and my family relies on my income." It's very scary, and then that contributes to more stress.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Can you remember your scariest brain fog moment?

Shirley Weir:

Oh gosh, I have so many.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Let's hear them.

Shirley Weir:

Well, I would let the dog out and forget that I let the dog out. I flew home from a trip by myself and got in my car and drove home forgetting that I had a suitcase on the carousel. I mean, I've had lots of those types of forgetful moments. But I guess probably the most debilitating brain fog experience for me would be the waking up at three in the morning trying to do all the work that needed to be done because it was on yesterday's to-do list or last weeks, then doing all the kids' stuff and doing all of that. And then coming home, I work from home, coming back to my home office and curling up in a ball in the bathtub, having to get back into bed because I just was so immobilized by overwhelm anxiety to-do lists.

Christine Maginnis:

I think on top of that, it adds to that feeling of, I speak for myself at least that what happened to the old me. I used to be able to do... There's a lot of self blame when you say, what's wrong with me? This isn't like me. Why am I not functioning? And to piggyback on that, I remember you saying, or I read that you had said that you questioned at one point whether you had an early onset dementia. And when I read that, it makes me feel so relieved because I actually went to my doctor, a different doctor after the first doctor, and I said, sheepishly, I think I have early onset Alzheimer's, it can be very scary. But I've read lots of women who have that same thought that they fear they're losing their minds. I'd just love to throw that out there, so for anyone who's listening, it's not a personal failure, it's a wild fluctuation in your hormones.

Shirley Weir:

And it's the fact that midlife women are holding up the world right now.

Christine Maginnis:

Yes.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Was there anybody else you could turn to for support? Obviously, you didn't have your community at that time.

Shirley Weir:

That's an excellent question and I don't think I did. I mean, I think I fell into almost the stereotypical scenario that we're discussing here today. At that time, early 40s with lots on my plate and not really a full understanding of what was happening to me. I relied on myself.

Robin Gelfenbien:

You experienced so many symptoms and I'm curious to know, you were trying to hold up the world and your home. What was the impact that that had on your family and your loved ones?

Shirley Weir:

Yeah, the biggest impact on my family was bouts of rage with my children. And if anybody wanted to ask me why I started Menopause Chicks, it was because I knew that I needed to make some changes and to get informed and I knew that I wasn't being the mother that I was born to be. It wouldn't have happened if it hadn't have been for those situations.

Christine Maginnis:

I'm just so impressed that you talk about that feeling of rage because I can relate. I did too, and you don't feel good about yourself after snapping so quickly.

Shirley Weir:

No, and that's what sent me either back to bed or to the bathtub to curl up in a ball. It was mostly with my son too. He would've been 11 at the time. He's my oldest. I don't remember really having bouts of rage with my daughter who's three years younger. It's emotional to talk about, but the good news is, is that we've both, all of us have grown through it and it's an incredible entry into having conversations about hormone health because my children were going through hormone fluctuations at the same time I was. That's certainly very common in almost every family I know.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Before we move on, just one last symptom I wanted to talk about is bleeding. I always thought that perimenopause was associated with spotting and the lightening of your period. But from what I've read and learned, it sounds like there's way more to it than that and I think you experienced something conversely to what I'm describing.

Shirley Weir:

Yeah, so I mean, it's funny how we all of have these perceptions of what menopause will be like even if we've never done a stitch of research. My perception was that menopause was like a light switch. It's like one day you have your period and turn it off and the next day you don't, or the next month, you don't. The reality is that irregular bleeding, lighter bleeding, and most commonly heavier bleeding is the most common experience of perimenopause and remains the least discussed. So media and marketers and even the medical community and the pharmaceutical community have led us to believe that hot flashes are what you need to look out for and that is not what's sending women to see their gynecologist. I mean, over 70% of gynecologist visits in North America are due to heavy bleeding. It's caused by an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone.

When our cycles are regular, estrogen is the dominant hormone in the first two weeks of the cycle and progesterone comes in the last two weeks and provides this beautiful dance partner and everything is well, and that's our period being regular. Then in perimenopause, as those two hormones get further and further apart, progesterone dropping, women will often experience heavy bleeding and it's scary and it sends women to the emergency room and it keeps women from exercising and it keeps women from going to work or driving their kids to school. It's really unfortunate that there isn't more awareness and conversation and education around that.

Christine Maginnis:

Yeah. I did have heavy bleeding and it's called Menorrhagia and it's when you bleed for more than seven days and you bleed heavily. Actually, mine didn't stop for weeks and weeks and so I had to have a uterine ablation where they basically burn out the endometrial lining, but it is scary and messy.

Robin Gelfenbien:

You talk a lot about what women are willing to put up with, and as you mentioned, like we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. And I came across this really powerful quote from you that I wanted to share, which is stop saying normal. If we continue to tell women it's normal to forget things, leak pee when they sneeze, be wide awake at three in the morning, lose her temper with her kids, bleed through a single pad every hour or have low libido, we will continue to have women not listening to the signals their bodies are giving them. I want to know, what did you put up with, and knowing what you know now, what do you think you would've not had to put up with?

Shirley Weir:

That's a great, great question. First of all, I think normal is a setting on our dryer and that we should not ever use the word normal in a sentence with any of those things that you just listed off. I think what I wish I knew then and what I did put up with were a lot of symptoms of nutritional deficiencies. I was low in iron. I hadn't yet learned that magnesium was supportive for mood and sleep. That's been a great learning for me. I hadn't yet learned that I really needed omega-3s because unless you're eating salmon three times a week, you're not really supporting your brain health with enough omega-3s.

And I'll be honest with you, I was dabbling in vitamin D supplementation, but where I live, which is in the Pacific Northwest, we need vitamin D and we need it for our bones, but we also need it for our brains and for our mood support. It was more of a time in my life where I was pushing the gas pedal and just really testing how fast I could go without stopping and really taking an inventory of what my body needed.

Christine Maginnis:

One of the reasons I was so excited to have you on is I love how you talk about hormone therapy. So bring it on. I know you said it's not a four letter word and how would you explain that to our listeners, the role of hormones and why hormone treatment has a bad name?

Shirley Weir:

Oh gosh, hormone therapy is such a big topic. We do need more education and conversation and information around hormone therapy. And one of the things that stands in the way of women embracing the concept of hormone therapy is that it is a prescription medication. It does need to be guided by a prescribing physician and that means that hormone therapy gets lumped in with all other pharmaceuticals. All other pharmaceuticals are remedies for a problem. Hormone therapy is like investing, it's like refilling the gas tank. And one of the analogies that I often use for hormone therapy is if you had a car that was 10 years old and you really wanted it to last you 20 years, you could A, keep going and see how far you get, or you could put on new tires, get new brakes, change the oil, fill up the gas tank.

We need that analogy in women's health because we're the first generation of women to reach 50 and have 50 more years to plan for. Now, we said that at the top of this conversation in talking about celebrating, but what I really want to emphasize around that is if you go to a women's retirement community or a senior's home today, you are going to see predominantly women and you're going to see predominantly women who are living with heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis, vaginal atrophy and incontinence. And so I view hormone therapy as giving our bodies back what they used to make on their own and allowing us to support our heart health and our brain health and our bone health. And that is really what is going to be the game changer because it's not enough to have a number of years if you don't have the quality.

Christine Maginnis:

Yeah, I don't think people make the immediate connection and I agree with you. I had to laugh with the light switch that menopause is a light switch because that's what I always say. It's just this flick that you've made 12 months without having a period. But it's the perimenopause that it's what we think of when we say going through menopause.

Shirley Weir:

Sure.

Christine Maginnis:

But I don't think that people beyond, okay, switch, it's off. Great. No more periods. Woohoo. Let's drink those no bloody Marys, they don't realize that there are long term health risks associated with, and you've hit them all, like cardiovascular disease, decrease in bone density, osteoporosis. I left something out because of my brain fog.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Brain health?

Christine Maginnis:

Brain health maybe.

Shirley Weir:

Yeah. I mean, it was such a light bulb moment for me to understand the role of estrogen, for example.

Christine Maginnis:

Exactly.

Shirley Weir:

And to think back on my mother's health and estrogen being our juicy hormone, but also being really protective of our cardiovascular health and understanding that progesterone, I mean, it's commonly talked about as the hormone that will protect the uterine lining, but it's also really important for preventing osteoporosis and for supporting our brain health. Even testosterone, which doesn't get nearly enough airtime, it's generally thought of as a male hormone or a sex hormone. Testosterone is responsible for women's confidence. As my mom got older, confident woman, very active, sharp, she became less and less confident doing her own banking. She wanted to rely on my sister and I. The interest wasn't there. Her confidence went down this very steep decline. And now I look back and I'm like, oh, what was happening with her testosterone?

Christine Maginnis:

Right.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Can you unpack for our listeners what vaginal atrophy is?

Shirley Weir:

In perimenopause, hormones fluctuate, and sometimes they fluctuate wildly, and those wild fluctuations lead to some of the hormone symptoms that we talked about earlier in the call. After menopause, estrogen, which is generally high in perimenopause, goes for a deep decline and estrogen is our juicy hormones. It keeps our eyes moist and it keeps our mouth moist, it keeps our joints lubricated and one of the things that estrogen does is it keeps our vulva and vagina moist, lubricated. When that estrogen is no longer being produced at the same levels, vaginal dryness can begin and sometimes that leads to atrophy, which would be shrinking. It would get smaller, shorter, it's skin. Long before menopause, we moisturize and take care of our face and our hands and our elbows and our feet, but we don't always take care of our vaginal health. These statistics are quite scary actually, because 80% of women will experience vaginal dryness in post-menopause, and currently less than 4% of us are receiving treatment.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Wow.

Christine Maginnis:

That's staggering.

Shirley Weir:

Yes. But there's good news. There's lots of ways to address it.

Christine Maginnis:

Thank God.

Shirley Weir:

There's lots of ways to prevent, lots of ways to prevent vaginal dryness and lots of ways to treat it. And one of them is like, you can't give up, you can't give up. You just keep working until we find a solution for you. As estrogen declines, so does hyaluronic acid, which is a term that you may have seen. It's included in a lot of beauty products and moisturizers for your face and body. But hyaluronic acid in 2013 was actually shown to be equally as effective as estrogen therapy for the prevention and treatment of vaginal dryness. There's a lot of members in our community who are seeing great results and it kind of makes sense because your body used to make hyaluronic acid and you're moisturizing your face and other body parts. It works for the vagina and the vulva as well.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Absolutely. You talk a lot about having a personal healthcare team, and I think that's awesome. Christine has her thoughts on who should be on your team, not your team specifically, Shirley. I'm just going to play game show host real quick and we're going to call it, who's your healthcare team? Shirley, I want to know who are the medical professionals that you recommend having on your healthcare team? And we're going to see what Christine's are and where they align. There are no wrong answers here. Just wanted to get your sense.

Shirley Weir:

Yeah, I mean, I don't even know that there's a right answer to that question either, other than the best midlife health team that you can create is the one that's right for you. On my personal health team, I have a physician, I have a naturopathic doctor. I also rely heavily on the information that comes from my pharmacist, a compounding pharmacist. Well, geez, I mean, I have a yoga studio. I have all of the co-authors of my book. I have a dear friend who's a registered dietician. I think that the concept of a health team can also be redefined. As we're pulling in, oh, I have this great podcast as a part of my health team. I mean, there are different ways of thinking through that. The reason that that is really important to me is because I do believe that perimenopause and menopause are over-medicalized and that's not to say you don't need a doctor and a reliable physician, but that isn't the first place that you might go to to learn about this journey.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Christine, what were your answers?

Christine Maginnis:

Now, I feel like a real schmuck.

Robin Gelfenbien:

You're not, you're not. There are no wrong answers. There are no wrong answers.

Christine Maginnis:

I was just thinking that you need an OB-GYN who actually is trained in menopause and even though that sounds like ...

Shirley Weir:

But they're not.

Christine Maginnis:

... and obvious they are not. Eight in 10 OB-GYN residents say they feel ill prepared to talk to a patient about menopause.

Shirley Weir:

Correct.

Christine Maginnis:

If you have any sexual issues, urinary issues that you would see a urologist who also knows about menopause and GSM, which is Genitourinary syndrome of menopause. Again, it's the things about keeping your vagina healthy and thriving. I would say a cardiologist because as estrogen goes down, your risk of cardiovascular disease rises. So you should have a check in with a cardiologist to see how the ticker's doing. And then I don't think you necessarily need an orthopedist by any stretch, but a doctor who will refer you for every three years for a DEXA scan to check on your bone density. I say all that at the same time, I realize that what a luxury it is to be able to see all those doctors. Not everybody has the healthcare to do that. So that would be the dream team in a perfect world. Okay. We've touched on it a bit, but can you just give us a little bit more information about Menopause Chicks, what you're doing, what you're working on?

Shirley Weir:

Sure. Menopause Chicks is a online community and it's also a bit of a movement to redefine what we've talked about today. But the Menopause Chicks community lives on Facebook. We have over 38,000 very active members, 2.11 million site visits last year, 120,000 questions and answers. It's an education platform. It's a place for women to come and get informed and to have access to evidence based research, health professionals, and to be backed up by a community who understands the journey that you're on.

Christine Maginnis:

I think we've both mentioned that what we hear from people, and I know I felt it, is this feeling of I've never felt so alone and it sounds like Menopause Chicks is a great place to not feel alone.

Shirley Weir:

It's a great place to not feel alone and we run a pretty tight ship, I'll be honest. There isn't any doctor bashing, there isn't any spouse bashing. There's no time for that because our most important job in the world is to make sure that midlife women have access to the education and information that they deserve in order to feel amazing.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Is there anything that you've learned from this group that has surprised you?

Shirley Weir:

Oh gosh. Well, the whole vaginal dryness health was a big surprise for me. Six years ago when I launched the community, I did research because I thought, well, I'm going to ask the community what content they want, naively thinking that they were all going to want what I wanted, which was information, right? On sleep, brain fog, depression, yada, yada, yada. And what came back was women really wanted answers to pelvic health, vaginal health, urinary health, how to prevent UTIs and it was an area that I then had to go and learn myself, which I'm so grateful for the opportunity.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Since you started that group, do you think that you're making lots of progress in terms of changing this conversation?

Shirley Weir:

I think that I have the privilege and the opportunity to work with the most important set of influencers in this conversation and that is the women who are holding up the world.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Absolutely. So wanted to also talk to you about your book, Mokita: How to Navigate Perimenopause with Confidence and Ease. So tell us, what does Mokita mean?

Shirley Weir:

Mokita is a word that found me just before I published the book, and it's from Papa New Guinea. It means the truth we all know, but choose not to speak of. In North America, we often say it's the elephant in the room, which I believe that the conversation around perimenopause and menopause is becoming less of an elephant in the room. But one of the reasons why I love the word Mokita is that in Papa New Guinea, there's a tribe called the Kalbelia Tribe, and they actually measure the health of their tribe based on how many Mokita's they have with the goal being as few Mokita's as possible. The goal being, the more we talk about uncomfortable things, the healthier we will be. And so that really resonated for me, and I took it on as the title of my book.

Robin Gelfenbien:

I love it.

Christine Maginnis:

I love it too. I have one last question.

Shirley Weir:

Yes.

Christine Maginnis:

You have been at this for almost a decade, right?

Shirley Weir:

I have. Yes.

Christine Maginnis:

The work you've done at Menopause Chicks and writing the book, and we hear it at Let's Talk Menopause or creating a non-profit to do the same thing, to educate, to inform, to give resources, to share articles. What is our next call to action? All these various groups working on, shining light and ending stigma on the topic of menopause, what do you see is what we need to do quickly?

Shirley Weir:

I think what we need to do quickly is for all of us to get around the table and to shine a light on what we're not talking about. There is still a misconception... I have this phrase that I often say that conversations don't work if they continue to perpetuate more myths and misconceptions. It is not enough for us to talk about menopause and for everyone to continue to think it's negative, that it has all of this negative energy, negative stereotypes attached to it. What we're not talking about, I mean, I have a long list here on my wall, but it's the things like the fact that our doctor's appointments are only 10 minutes long.

That is not going to change in my lifetime. What is it that we can do to reframe this phase of life, to reframe what it means to have a health team? We need to shine a light on, I don't know that ensures, actually understand the nuances that are associated with, oh, let's just say 35 to 75, 40 years of a woman's life, pretty significant for an insurance company. What can we do to help them along in their journey in helping us?

Christine Maginnis:

Yes, and I feel our research has found that women on average, after reaching menopausal live another 30 years. I don't want to be discarded for 30 years. I've got a lot to do still. I am perfectly okay with being postmenopausal.

Shirley Weir:

Yeah, me too.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Thank you, Shirley, for all of these wonderful aha moments, light bulb moments, mic drop moments. I'm just...

Christine Maginnis:

Sometimes dry moments.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Just in terms of my humor, Christine. But we so appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your vast wisdom and experience with us. I know our listeners will get so much out of this conversation. Where can they find more about you and Menopause Chicks and all the vital work that you're doing?

Shirley Weir:

Well, first of all, thank you and I adore what you're doing. I want to jump through the screen right now and give both of you a big hug. Menopause Chicks can be found at Menopause Chicks on all social media and Menopausechickscommunity.com. We'll take you right into our private online community.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Where can they find information about your book, oh, Mokita, you wouldn't have known?

Shirley Weir:

Mokita is on Amazon or you can download a pdf at Mymokita.com.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Wonderful. Thank you so much for being with us, Shirley.

Christine Maginnis:

You're the best. Thank you.

Shirley Weir:

You are welcome. Thank you so much.

Robin Gelfenbien:

That was such a powerful conversation. I loved every second of it. I felt like this sponge just absorbing everything she had to say. There's so many things that I learned. But what did you think, Christine?

Christine Maginnis:

I loved her. She did not disappoint. I love what she's done to spread the word about menopause, and I really enjoyed her as a human being. She couldn't have been more warm and more informative, and I think she was amazing.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Totally. Well, of course, she's amazing. She's Canadian.

Christine Maginnis:

I know. That's so nice.

Robin Gelfenbien:

It's hard not to love Canadians. A couple of things that really stood out to me, I mean, there were so much that, like I just said, I learned, but she had a lot of great analogies. But the HRT one, in talking about investing in refilling your gas tank, I don't know that much about HRT, but that just seemed like a really good way to position it.

Christine Maginnis:

Right. And I like that notion that after you reach menopause or the light switch goes off, there is a lot more to your continued good health. That doesn't mean game over. And I love that she makes it, her saying to say, hormone replacement, it's not a bad word. We should be talking about it. I love that she shines light on it.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Totally. Plus, hello testosterone, I didn't know about that. I was like, I to think I'm pretty confident, am I just like oozing testosterone right now?

Christine Maginnis:

It's also a treatment for low libido.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Christine Maginnis:

Yeah. Save that for another show.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Yeah, I think our listeners will get so much out of this episode.

Christine Maginnis:

Yes.

Robin Gelfenbien:

As she would say about estrogen, it was juicy. It was a juicy one.

Christine Maginnis:

Yes, it was. It was. It made my day.

Robin Gelfenbien:

It did.

Christine Maginnis:

Thanks for being with me today, Robin.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Thank you, Christine, for your always insightful and very smart questions, and thank you to our listeners for being with us today. We so appreciate you taking the time to learn a little bit more about this really engaging and very important topic. So hope to see you next time here at Hello Menopause.

Christine Maginnis:

Hey, listeners, if you enjoy this podcast as much as we enjoy recording it, we'd love it, if you could help us out.

Robin Gelfenbien:

All you have to do is write and review the show and it will help us reach more listeners. It only takes a minute and it makes a huge difference.

Christine Maginnis:

It really does. And if you want to follow the show while you're at it, we won't mind.

Robin Gelfenbien:

No, we won't. And don't forget to tell your friends to check it out too.

Christine Maginnis:

Our mission at Let's Talk Menopause is to give people the information they need so they can get the healthcare they deserve. Please visit our website at Letstalkmenopause.org for a wealth of menopause information, including a symptoms checklist, information about long term health risks, how to navigate menopause at work, interviews with health experts and so much more.

Robin Gelfenbien:

This episode of Hello Menopause is sponsored by Always Discreet, makers of liners, pads, and underwear for bladder leaks, Always Discreet because we deserve better.

Christine Maginnis:

Hello Menopause is a production from Let's Talk Menopause made in partnership with FRQNCY Media. I'm your host, Christine Maginnis.

Robin Gelfenbien:

And I'm your host, Robin Gelfenbien.

Christine Maginnis:

Enna Garkusha is our supervising producer, and Alana Herlands is our producer. Laura Boyman and Catherine Devine are our associate producers.

Robin Gelfenbien:

Sidney Evans is our dialogue editor and Claire Bidigare-Curtis is our sound designer. Hello Menopause was concepted by Jessica Olivier, Jil Pasiecnik and Becca Godwin.

Christine Maginnis:

This podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google podcast, and wherever podcasts are found.

Robin Gelfenbien:

So check it out.

Thank you to Always Discreet for sponsoring Hello Menopause.
Always Discreet, because we deserve better.