NEW YORK — Drew Barrymore recently went on a movie date with a “hot” man she’s known for some time – but it started with an awkward moment, thanks to what Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver call “the big M.”
While her unnamed date was familiar, she didn’t feel comfortable telling him exactly what she’d be doing for work the next day when asked: She was scheduled to tape a conversation about menopause for Oprah Daily’s “The Life You Want” with Winfrey, Shriver and doctors Sharon Malone and Heather Hirsch.
The group discussed perimenopause (a period of hormonal upheaval that precedes menopause) and menopause in a panel conversation conducted in collaboration with Shriver’s “The Sunday Paper,” (streaming on Oprah Daily at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday).
“There’s something in that stigma that you think ‘I don’t want you to think on some dusty old dry thing.’ That’s not the image I want,” said Barrymore, who is currently experiencing perimenopause, during the March taping. “And I feel very confident normally.”
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Barrymore’s experience isn’t unique. Talking about menopause has been taboo for ages.
For some, there’s also a lack of awareness around dealing with menopause and what’s happening to your body. Paired with the fact some are getting mixed guidance from medical professionals, that can make the experience tough to navigate.
“I get different answers from different doctors,” said Barrymore, 48. “Nothing tracks, nothing Venn diagrams. I feel incredibly lost.”
It shouldn’t be that way, according to the panelists.
“For generations, millions and millions of women have suffered the symptoms of menopause and suffered in silence,” Winfrey said. “And it’s always been shrouded in stigma and shrouded in shame. Women have told me they feel invisible as if their very selves are disappearing. But we are flipping that script today.”
Shriver said it’s about reframing aging.
“What does it mean to be an attractive energetic, sexual, vibrant woman at every decade?” said Shriver, 67, noting she feels better at this age than she did in her 20s and 30s. “I think this is you know, a conversation that is of this moment needed for this moment and it will be up to us to make that shift.”
Shriver said the new openness that’s slowly emerged around topics related to women’s healthcare thanks to wellness industry growth and media coverage, among other factors, has already made a marked difference for younger generations.
“I have no idea what my mother’s health journey was,” Shriver said. “I know she had sex because I have four brothers. … That’s about it. … Nobody (talked) about these things at all.”
Their conversation involved audience members, including expert Dr. Judith Joseph and Oprah Daily editor-at-large Gayle King. The group went in-depth on the stigma, personal experiences, delved into medical research and how it’s evolved (including whether to use hormones – spoiler: Estrogen is safe, per Malone) and more.
“The menopause train is coming no matter what,” Winfrey said, noting that no one can “outfox the ‘Big M.'”
Winfrey said while she was trying to navigate menopause, she had trouble focusing, had heart palpitations, and had a “duller” phase during which she felt “whatever” about life before she started taking estrogen. But it took time, and conversations with multiple doctors, a stint taking heart medication and conversations with friends, to figure out that was what she needed.
Audience members weighed in, too, describing symptoms like brain fog, forgetfulness, loss of confidence or loss of self identity — and questioning those symptoms and more.
Winfrey and her co-panelists are on a mission to change the stigma. On Wednesday, Oprah Daily is launching a menopause guide alongside the conversation that will roll out discussions, classes tools and expert advice on how to helm perimenopause and menopause, deal with mood swings, symptoms, whether to try hormones and more over the coming months.
“If Mark Zuckerberg could rebrand Facebook to Meta, maybe we can do this for menopause,” Barrymore said.
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