WENTS & Friends

The M Word: Breaking the Taboo

April 04, 2022 WENTS UK Season 1 Episode 3
WENTS & Friends
The M Word: Breaking the Taboo
Show Notes Chapter Markers

“Why is it that women's health is secondary and treated as a taboo? Why is it that women's issues are seen as private, shameful, or even made fun of and diminished? Why is it that a basic physiological need and all of the related symptoms are ignored?”

Join us as we address these questions, and more, in this honest and enlightening podcast from WENTS & Friends, lifting the lid on menstruation and menopause, looking at the impact on our busy and intense working lives as doctors and surgeons.

Host Nina Mistry first interviews the journalist writer, speaker, and organizer in women's rights and feminist approaches to social change, Karen Pickering about the pervasive nature of the menstrual taboo and what we must do to dismantle it. 

Nina is also joined by three panellists to discuss their experiences within the NHS and the corporate world and how we can bring about change and break the taboo. Rosie Baruah is a consultant in intensive care medicine and anaesthesia with a research interest in gender equity and medicine, which extends to menstruation provision in the workplace (www.heygirls.co.uk/period-poverty). Lauren Chiren runs the organisation, Women of a Certain Stage , which raises awareness of the menopause in the press and media and works with organizations to help them understand why being menopause supportive is business savvy and FREE Menopause The Basics course. Helen Cocks is a consultant ENT surgeon and clinical director of head and neck surgery in Sunderland. Like Lauren, she is going through the menopause herself and openly shares her experience with us.

We discuss how ill-equipped hospitals currently are to support those who are menstruating and menopausal at both a practical and emotional level, despite these groups making up the majority of the NHS workforce.

To bring about change requires those who are passionate about the issues to speak out and share experiences. Policymaking plays an important role in giving formal recognition to the importance of these issues and the benefits to organizations are huge in terms of employee wellbeing and return on investment. 

Normalizing menstruation and the menopause requires a huge shift in mindset across society and the workforce, not least in some cases by women themselves, who have been ingrained with the patriarchal idea that any sign of physiological difference denotes inferiority, especially in traditionally male dominated industries like our own.

We hope this conversation is a step in the right direction, promoting a positive culture around the topic of menstruation, opening the door to better working conditions in our industry and starting to break that taboo.
Get in touch

WENTS & Friends is the official podcast for Women in ENT Surgery UK (entuk.org/wents-uk).
Follow us on Twitter @UKWENTs

Email: wents@entuk.org for any questions or suggestions on topics you may have for future episodes.

This season’s episodes are hosted by Ekpemi Irune @ENTmimi, Emma Stapleton @otolaryngolofox and Nina Mistry @nina3mistry. Produced and directed by Heather Pownall @heathershub of Heather's Media Hub Ltd. Created and co-produced by Ekpemi Irune.
We would like to thank our sponsors Karl Storz for their kind support.

Host, Nina Mistry’s introduction to the topic and interviewee, Karen Pickering.
Context and background of the menstrual taboo.
Aims of the podcast and introduction to the three panellists.
Analysing the data from Karen Pickering’s research – the pervasive feeling of shame around the topic of menstruation across all age groups.
The panel’s own experiences of managing periods while working in high pressure jobs.
Challenging our own negative assumptions and attitudes around menstruation – the importance of sharing experiences and using our voices to broker change and break down barriers.
Practical advice for doctors and surgeons working long hours.
Changing narratives and shifting mindsets about the silence around menstruation – workplace policies; freely available sanitary products.
The gulf between medical knowledge and lived experience and the need for education and training; the importance of using one’s voice from a position of influence.
Policy making and benefits to business – Lauren Chiren’s experience in the corporate world.
Challenging the belief amongst women that marking ourselves out as different is to mark ourselves out as inferior – the “illusion” of equality between male and female colleagues.
Lauren Chiren’s personal experience of the menopause.
2019 British Medical Association study: challenging the culture on menopause in working doctors / menopause policies in the workplace.
Rosie Baruah’s experience of the challenges and stigma facing women in medicine going through menopause.
Helen Cocks’ personal experience of the menopause.
What can we do to encourage more trusts to take these topics on board and develop policies in these areas?
Challenging perceptions and stereotypes around the menopause.
Concluding comments.