Keeping the bedroom window open in the depths of winter, worrying about having a hot flush in parliament and discussing HRT with her doctor: Nicola Sturgeon has spoken frankly in a new podcast about her experience of the menopause.
In an interview with the editor and author Sam Baker for The Shift, which explores the challenges in life for women over the age of 40, Scotland’s first minister admitted her own ambivalence about discussing the subject in public.
She said: “We talk about the menopause much more, and I’m very conscious of being a woman with a profile and a platform, a fair degree of influence, so I feel a responsibility – given that I’m at that age – to talk about it myself.
“And yet even talking about it like this, 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’ve come in this discussion, we still have a long way to go that somebody like me still feels kind of uncomfortable with it.”
Sturgeon, who is 51, described herself as “still in the foothills” of the menopause, adding: “Even though there is more information available than there has ever been before, there’s still a massive amount of guesswork about it. We’re still all feeling our way through it.”
She told Baker that she had already had a conversation with her doctor about taking hormone replacement therapy, noting that her generation grew up reading – now discredited – scare stories about the treatment and asking: “How many women just suffered in silence and suffered unnecessarily because of that?”
Asked how she might deal with a hot flush during a work meeting, she said: “I would like to think I would be open about it. If you look around the world, there’s not been that many women leaders … I guess Angela Merkel must have gone through when she was in office, Hillary Clinton … so if you’ve got that platform, then I would like to think I would use that positively, but I’m also a human being.”
Sturgeon said that while she had not yet experienced those symptoms, she was “definitely at the stage of feeling hotter overnight, not being able to sleep and all that sort of thing”.
She added: “So I’ve got windows open in the depth of winter, my poor husband is shivering. I’ve thought to myself: what if that happens when I’m on my feet in parliament in the middle of first minister’s questions? What would I do? That could happen any time. I’m not sure I will know the answer to that question until it happens.”
She joked: “Maybe male opposition leaders should be thinking about what I will do, as well.”
Last summer, the Scottish government published its first women’s health plan, which included commitments to reduce waiting times for diagnosing endometriosis from more than eight years to less than 12 months, to offer individual care plans after a woman’s first miscarriage, and to widen access to specialist menopause services.