Nicola Sturgeon opens up on menopause to empower other women in work

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Nicola Sturgeon has opened up on her experience with menopause in a bid to help empower other working women.

The First Minister spoke candidly on the The Shift podcast with Sam Baker, and admitted discussing the topic publicly still felt far out of her comfort zone because of the intensely personal nature of the topic.

The 51-year-old SNP leader revealed her fear of experiencing hot flashes during FMQ’s as she enters the ‘foothills’ of menopause and hopes to normalize talking about the effects of aging as a woman in power.

Nicola Sturgeon wants more access to treatment for menopause
Nicola Sturgeon wants more access to treatment for menopause

She is urging other women to reduce the anxiety around the topic so the experience can be less mystifying for women.

Speaking on the podcast she said: “I’m very aware of being a woman with a profile and a platform and a fair degree of influence.

“So I feel I have a responsibility given I’m at that age to talk about it myself, yet I am so far out of my comfort zone in terms of the intensely personal nature of it.

“That tells me no matter how far we have come in this discussion we still have a long way to go, that someone like me still feels kind of uncomfortable with it.

“I’d describe myself as still in the foothills [of menopause] it is definitely kind of there or there abouts.

“One thing that always strikes me even today when we talk about it much more…is there still an amount of guesswork about it.

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“We [women] are still all kind of feeling our way through it and not actually sure what it should be like.”

Nicola Sturgeon was asked what she would did if she experienced a hot flash during FMQ's
Nicola Sturgeon was asked what she would did if she experienced a hot flash during FMQ’s

Ms Sturgeon also discussed her own fears around menopause, including anxiety over taking Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to relieve symptoms.

She continued: “I have already had a conversation with my doctor about HRT – I have not started taking it yet and I did that deliberately because we are of the generation where I grew up thinking that it was this terrible, terrible thing.”

She also revealed she fears the day she will experience a hot flush in Parliament and added: “It hasn’t happened yet but I have thought to myself what if that happens while I’m on my feet in Parliament in the middle of First Minister’s Questions, what would I do?

“That could happen anytime, I don’t know what I would do but I don’t think I would know until it happens.

I’ve not had [menopause] that extreme, I think I am at the stage where I’m definitely feeling a bit hotter overnight, not being able to sleep, so I’ve got windows open at the depth of winter and my poor husband is shivering next to me.”

The First Minister said she would have felt better if women in power had shared their own experiences with aging and menopause and speaking out will help the next generation.

She said: “If you’ve got that platform I like to think I would use it positively.

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“The menopause (although it shouldn’t be) is mystifying for women, and accessing support and treatment is still far too difficult. For me, the public nature of my job adds to the anxiety of all it might entail (my ‘joke’ in the podcast about hot flushes during FMQs is a real fear!).

“But I’m sure I’d feel more prepared for what lies ahead if, in past years, there had been women in positions like mine able to talk about how they coped while still doing their jobs well.

“So I feel a responsibility to do that now for the next generation – but with trepidation.

“The stigma, ignorance and negativity need consigned to the past. If being open about my own experience as it develops and how I’m dealing with it can help do that in some small way, I’m determined not to hide away from it – however uncomfortable it might be.”

Nicola Sturgeon also opened up on how she found a way to be herself in politics and how she still battles with imposter syndrome in her daily life as the leader of Scotland.

You can listen to the full podcast with Sam Baker here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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