Menopause used to be a taboo topic that celebrities rarely spoke about. But lately, a slew of famous women have opened up about the life transition.
Halle Berry, 56, is the latest celebrity to talk about her experience with menopause. "We're all going through it. And we learn from one another when we talk about it, when we become curious, and when we share with each other what we're going through," the Oscar-winning actress shared with Women's Health.
"The most important thing about owning your sexuality as a woman is accepting the station you're at — and embracing that," she continued. "And I say that because I'm smack dab in the middle of menopause."
Berry said that she's "challenging everything I thought I knew about menopause. Things like: 'Your life is over.' 'You are disposable.' 'Society no longer has a place for you.' 'You should retire.' 'You should pack it up.'”
Berry stressed that she's her "best self now that I reached 56 years old," adding, "I have the most to offer. I have zero blanks to give anymore. I'm solidly in my womanhood. I finally realize what I have to say is valuable, even if no one else agrees."
But Berry joins the ranks of other famous women who are speaking out about going through The Change. Naomi Watts, who founded Stripes, a line of menopausal products, said on her company website that "nothing prepared me for early menopause."
"I'd wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat," the 54-year-old said. "My skin was dry and itchy. My hormones were all over the place. I remember feeling so confused and alone, like I didn’t have control over my own body."
Courteney Cox, 59, jokingly updated her Tampax commercial from the '80s in an Instagram video last year, saying, "Menopause will eat you alive. It's horrible."
Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop also sells a Madame Ovary supplement that's designed to help relieve symptoms of perimenopause (the period before menopause) and menopause. During a recent Instagram Q&A, the 50-year-old Paltrow shared this when asked about how she deals with menopause: "I can't deal someone help me and all us ladies good lord."
Menopause was rarely discussed in the past. So, is it a good or bad thing that celebrities are speaking about it?
The benefits of celebrities sharing their menopause journeys
"It is great that many famous women are speaking out about menopause — to show that being a bit older is just fine — and that women who are not in their 20s can contribute a lot [and] be glamorous," Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. "It's great to hear that women can experience menopause in different ways."
Speaking publicly about menopause can also just raise awareness, Dr. Nina Ali, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. "Celebrities speaking out about menopause and its challenges helps women learn about what to expect, what is normal and treatment options."
But beware of what celebrities who aren't doctors say...
But it can be tricky when celebrities — who aren't doctors — offer medical advice, Dr. Lauren Streicher, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and author of Hot Flash Hell, tells Yahoo Life. "On the one hand, people are paying attention since celebrities, of course, have far more credibility in our society than anyone," she says. "People are finding it easier to talk about."
"But the problem is that they're talking about it, making recommendations and selling products which are often bogus," Streicher continues. "Those recommendations are not scientifically based, but people are latching onto what they're selling and doing. The reason that all these celebrities are suddenly speaking out is because there is a lot of money to be made in menopause."
Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a gynecologist and founder of Sanctum Med + Wellness, tells Yahoo Life that celebrities speaking out about their experiences can benefit other women. "It can allow them to feel comfort in voicing their discomfort and issues without feelings stigmatized," she says.
But Shepherd also says that some comments made by celebrities aren't completely on point. Cox's remarks that menopause will "eat you alive" is "not a very accurate statement as there are characteristics of perimenopause and menopause that can be uncomfortable, but should not be stigmatized," Shepherd says. (But, she adds, Cox's "ability to capture her previous ad to this in relation to menopause was brilliant.")
"My major concern is when women who are not trained as medical professionals attempt to suggest medical care [and] medications when they aren't trained in this area, or suggesting interventions that have no medical data at all behind them," Minkin says. "I wouldn't attempt to give acting lessons — I'm not trained to do so."
Overall, doctors say it's a positive thing that celebrities are speaking about what menopause is like. They just recommend keeping in mind who the messenger is when it comes to treatment options. "I hope the message is that everybody, including celebrities, goes through menopause," Streicher says.
If you're experiencing symptoms of perimenopause or menopause and you're uncomfortable, Shepherd recommends talking to your doctor. "We need to create more supportive conversations and allow women to have better education on the full context of menopause, which often is isolated," she says. "There is also a need to increase knowledge around menopause — and its impact on people."
This article was originally published on Aug. 8, 2023 and has been updated.