Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
Calling all Red Hot Mamas dealing with menopause and perimenopause!
Meet Karen Giblin, the Founder and President of The Red Hot Mamas, an organization dedicated to helping menopausal women by providing information and inspiration.
Giblin is currently a member of the International Menopause Society (IMS) and the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), two leading menopause advocacy organizations. Nevertheless, it is her passionate menopause advocacy work with Red Hot Mamas of which she is most proud.
The Red Hot Mamas, how it all started
Giblin created Red Hot Mamas in 1991 out of necessity as well as the desire to help others. After undergoing an oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) and hysterectomy at the age of 40, Giblin needed guidance to deal with the sudden onset of menopause.
The problem was that few if any resources were available save for the odd book or two. What made her experience worse was the immediate isolation combined with feelings of shame. Giblin recalls, “We were and still are in the midst of a youth-oriented society. Many of us equate menopause with old age and all the negative connotations associated with aging.”
“I was embarrassed.”
Not only was that fateful trip to the bookstore virtually useless, it was downright humiliating. With few peers going through the change (we’ll touch on that subject later) women found themselves adrift in a menopause sea with nowhere to turn for advice. Moreover, the shame made it even more difficult to obtain what little advice was available.
As Giblin remembers with some humor and a bit of sadness, “Heading up to the bookstore checkout with the one book that I could find, I hid that book under a stack of magazines.” The last thing any woman in her early 40s wants to think about, or deal with, is menopause and back in the early 1990s, aging was somewhat akin to a social disease.
“Women need to educate themselves about the whole ‘change’ process.”
Returning to the earlier comments about Giblin knowing few if any women in their early 40s dealing with menopause, natural or surgical, the last 20 years have brought about some interesting findings. Then as now, a majority of women still think in terms of hot flashes associated with menopause. But menopause is so much more than just hot flashes and hormones; several other symptoms are common during menopause.
Take insomnia for example; this is a very common complaint for women in their 40s and even in their late 30s. There are varieties of causes that can contribute to sleep disorders and for some women fluctuating hormone levels and night sweats are behind many sleepless nights. Yet few women will think of menopause and either reach for the sleeping pills or as Giblin says, “These women run from one healthcare professional to another based on insomnia symptoms and very often these women are still thinking menopause is somewhere off in the future.”
Menopause is a long phase not a sharp break
Giblin has found in the last two decades that women need to know about the entire menopausal process that begins long before the last menstrual period. “Perimenopause is a very real occurrence for many women as they being noticing changes, even if only slight ones, anywhere up to 8 years or even longer. Perimenopause is the body’s preparation for menopause and as the hormone levels readjust themselves, women will undergo a variety of symptoms.”
Once women recognize that menopause is not one quick event but a period of transition, menopause education is essential for coping with healthcare issues.
After 20 years, Giblin is pleased to report that while there is still work to be done, a lot of progress has been made in attitudes towards menopause and women’s healthcare. A glance at the numerous shelves of menopause books and the endless Web sites demonstrates a new and better world for menopausal women compared to 1991. Giblin and Red Hot Mamas everywhere played and continue to play important roles as menopause ambassadors.
Check out www.redhotmamas.com to read more about Karen Giblin, the woman behind it all.
A special thank you to Karen Giblin for our recent interview.