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The Women's Sports Alliance

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Michelle Griffith Robinson – How Menopause Impacts Minority Ethnic Women

“67% of black African-Caribbean women think that the current spotlight around menopause, doesn't represent them and only represents white experiences,” Olympian Michelle Griffith Robinson tells the WSA. “That's really challenging and debilitating. Don't we matter?”


Image from @michellegriffithrobinson


As a youngster Michelle Griffith Robinson overcame a turbulent homelife and racist abuse enroute to become a Team GB Olympic triple jumper.


Those experiences hardened her resolve, but the onset of perimenopause – the time when menstrual cycles become irregular and the body naturally transitions to another stage of life – presented an entirely different challenge.


It was one which she soon realised there was an absence of specific advice available to help her prepare and adapt.


“Four-five years ago when I was going through perimenopause, which I still am now, I looked online and there was nobody that looked like me,” she states.


“There are no posters, videos or anything that I could actually go and say, ‘oh, actually, that might work for me’ so I’ve had to do things through my own network, which is big but not all black woman have that.”


Image from @michellegriffithrobinson


‘Menopause is not just a challenge for white women’


Respondents to a recent survey, included as part of Holland and Barrett’s ‘menopause ethnicity gap’ awareness campaign, found that 51% of black, Asian and minority ethnic women felt current advice is focused on the menopause experience of white women.


“I have faced a lot of challenges, from being an Olympian and life in general, but with this one (menopause), I think it just creeps up on you,” continued the 1996 Atlanta Olympian.


“A lot of women will recognise that one minute you're absolutely fine, the next you’re in floods of tears, not sleeping, have palpitations, low libido, irrational behaviour and all of a sudden, you’re like ‘what’s going on with me?’


“Unless you have the understanding and the knowledge you start to think there's something actually going wrong with you and I’ve spoken to several women who feared it was dementia.”


“Often with women they just want to know that they are heard and seen so they don't feel paralysed.


“When you give somebody options on the table, it allows them to choose what can work for them and that's really important at this stage of life.”

‘More Talk = less stigma’


Michelle admits she never spoke about the menopause with family members when she was younger, but now passionately believes opening dialogues from an early age will help women from all backgrounds address a wide range of conditions.


“We need to look into some of the cultural barriers and the ‘shame and stigma’ many feel when learning they’re no longer fertile,” she tells the WSA.


“Black women will start their menopausal journey two years before their white counterparts, our symptoms will be more prolonged and we’ll have a more challenging situation regarding our heart health.


“I was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic, coincidentally at the same time as I was peri-menopausal.


“That's me as an Olympian healthy, active, but genetically are more prone to it and when oestrogen drops as well, you're more likely to come out and be type two diabetic.”


Women need to be aware of wider health concerns


Image from @michellegriffithrobinson


Earlier this year Michelle was given the ‘all clear’ and is no longer considered to be pre-diabetic for the first time in 25 years.


“I was delighted to learn I’m out of the woods,” she states.


“I've had a big challenge with my mum, who is a type two diabetic, but she unfortunately lost her limb in January this year, so I'm a massive advocate, campaigner and ambassador for Diabetes UK as well.


“There’s a big correlation of knowing your risks, and a lot of those risks can become related to menopause as well for midlife black women.


Michelle has helped create and launch a multi-language menopause support service, offering women from minority ethnic backgrounds online content in different languages – including Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Punjabi.


“We can’t change the past, but let’s look to the future and what we can do now,” she tells the Women’s Sports Alliance .


Follow this link to find out more about the new menopause online consultation service.

Image from @michellegriffithrobinson


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