If I had been given just some notice that suddenly one night my sex drive would be switched off, I would have made sure I enjoyed some last hurrahs.
I was just forty-one when I experienced menopause. I had relatively few symptoms to warn me and those I had, I put down to stress as I had a hectic life with a lot on my plate. I had a full-time, high pressure job and I was a lone parent.
I had left having children late and conceived my child at 39 and given birth at 40. I had purchased a property and renovated it in my baby’s first year. In her second year I started an Associate Degree. I had a lot going on. So, I ignored the relatively few symptoms I had such as night sweats, crankiness and exhaustion. And I was juggling so much I ignored the gaps between my periods until the periods failed to return.
When I mentioned their absence to a good friend, she recommended I see my GP. Certainly, neither of us imagined it could be early menopause because surely, I was too young. But the GP said I was in perimenopause to which I burst forth with “F%#@”.
I desperately wanted another child
I desperately wanted another child, so I was devastated. My ticking clock was running out of batteries. I started getting acupuncture to try and stimulate any remaining follicles into action. I gave up all processed foods, sugar and alcohol. I took spirulina and maca powder. I juiced. I got a Maybe Baby fertility tracker and tested my saliva through its mini microscope daily.
Eventually I had all the pre-tests done for IVF and met with an IVF specialist. She looked at my results, turned to me and said, “Has anyone told you that you have been through menopause?”
I was crushed. The loss of libido was nothing compared to the loss of fertility.
It meant no more children and being unable to provide a sibling for my only child.
I was also under a lot of pressure from my ex-partner’s family who would constantly tell me “We need another child”. I started avoiding anywhere where I thought they would be.
As my child was still young, it was a painful inevitably that I would be constantly immersed in playgrounds and parks where I felt saddened to be surrounded by groups of siblings, babies and pregnant women in all their fecundity and joy. I was constantly wiping away tears or holding them back but always putting on a smiling face for my child. It was a tough and lonely time.
I shared the grief and loss of menopause on both my fertility and my sex drive. Due to my age, I only had one good slightly older friend who had been through menopause to talk to about the loss of libido.
Even ideas of Brad Pitt couldn’t activate my libido
To test if my libido had really left the building, she listed off some Hollywood hunks and asked if I would be able to summons up the desire to sleep with any of them. Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, George Clooney, and the list went on. No, no and no way. I wouldn’t be interested in getting intimate if they were there right now, willing and able. The tap had run dry.
According to the Australian Menopause Society “low libido is the most common sexual concern reported by women and is often inseparable from diminished capacity to become aroused.”
My rejection of a long list of sexy chaps was a textbook example of this. And the strange thing was there was no hesitation in my rejection of all of them — I just wish I’d been given some notice that shortly I was going to wake up with the mains switch to my sex drive not only switched but obliterated.
Whilst early menopause has its own losses, menopause experienced typically at age 51 carries its own grief too that extends beyond a loss of libido.
Women have experienced changes to moods, memory, body shape, their careers and more because of menopause. Jean Kittson, speaking on the ABC programme Life Matters ‘You’re Still Hot to Me-The Joys of Menopause’ says it is a challenging time for women because often they are at the peak of their careers when they experience symptoms.
She encourages workplaces to normalise the fact that some women will experience symptoms such as hot flushes at work. It is pleasing to see that some companies such as ASOS and Kellogg’s are leading the way in the workplace by providing menopause leave to women. And as they do, they join others in changing the landscape for women so that as we move through society and the change, we are supported and understood.
Find out more
If you are wanting to learn more about menopause a great place to start is the Australian Menopause Society
Also the International Menopause Society has a series of great videos on menopause including a particularly great video on the effects on the libido by Dr Susan Davis.
Healthtalk explores loss of fertility and menopause.
Megan Lawton from the BBC writes about her own experience in ‘Early Menopause-I Was Grieving that I Couldn’t Have Children’.
You can find out more about Jean Kittson and links to her book You’re Still Hot to Me
And in the Good Grief! archives visit a conversation on normalising another type of loss — Pregnancy Loss with Tahyna McManus.