Let’s Be Honest About: Hormones

Words: Susanne Norris
Feature Image: HAdis Safari

I lose count of the amount of times that, as a writer, I’ve been asked to cover mental health and body image issues. Whether opinion or fact based pieces, I’ve covered it extensively. This isn’t a complaint – I love it. I love the fact we now exist in a world that wants to discuss – and more importantly listen – to these issues. That’s why I find it strange that we aren’t talking more about hormones.

I suppose it’s because when we discuss hormones, we’re discussing the unknown. I don’t mean to say extensive research hasn’t gone into how hormones affect our bodies, but rather that hormones seem so volatile as they affect every woman differently.

With this is mind, many women I know don’t talk about hormones. We accept that, especially when on our periods, hormonal changes will take place and we just have to deal with that. And, whilst no one ever wants to be that person who complains extensively for a week a month, it is important we talk more about our hormones.

Medical News Today states women experience four major hormone changes in their lifetimes. These are during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. In the context of your life, four changes doesn’t sound like a lot. But, when you consider puberty and menopause can last anywhere between four and ten years each and periods last for a week every month, the time spent experiencing hormonal changes grows and grows. We’re talking about years of hormone changes. Couple this with any hormonal changes caused by deliberate intervention (such as being on birth control) and you’re potentially looking at hormonal changes and imbalances for twenty years on and off.

This means we need to really understand our bodies and what’s happening to them. If we’re going to experience so many changes, we are well within our rights to understand why. This can be achieved in different ways. I imagine, for most women, hormones are most currently discussed with a doctor. Of course, this is important. A doctor has an in-depth understanding of these changes and can prescribe treatments and give advice on how to cope with hormonal changes.

However, understanding the physical and medical side of our hormones is just the beginning. We need to begin an empowering discourse, between other women, about our hormones. This would enable us to share experiences, learn from others and find a new-found power and trust in our bodies. By talking to other women, we could grow a better understanding of the emotions and physical changes we experience, and know we are not alone in this.

Perhaps even more importantly, we could change the conversation on hormones. Even fifty years ago, it was not deemed acceptable for men to be with their partners when they gave birth. Now, men are seen regularly supporting their partners in delivery rooms. The conversation on childbirth was opened up inclusively, and social change came because of it. That’s what needs to happen with hormones. Gone should be the days seeing snide comments in the office about co-workers mood changes being down to ‘periods’; we need to open up the conversation to promote understanding and acceptance.