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Niamh O’Reilly I beg you, stop marketing the menopause to me

The writer and journalist says it’s hard enough dreading the menopause without the constant marketing of products around it.

ENTERING MY FOURTH decade hasn’t been as horrific as I thought. Granted, I’m only one year in, but apart from the grey hairs mysteriously multiplying on my head and that one weird, dark chin hair respawning after every plucking, it’s been fine. That hasn’t stopped the internet’s algorithm from advertising the perimenopause and menopause to me on a near constant loop, however.

It’s not just social media which has me in its perimenopausal sights, either. The real world is in on the act too. I did a pants dash in Penneys the other day. I expected to come out with a basket of things I didn’t intend to buy and to be around €50 less well off. What I didn’t expect, was to see a big pair of menopause knickers staring at me on the shelf, with the word MENOPAUSE splashed across it in huge letters. Made from recycled plastic, the undies claimed to have extra hygienic properties and offer a cooling effect.

Now, period pants I get. They serve a function and I find them genuinely useful. Menopause knickers, on the other hand, seemed a step too far; especially when I could buy a pair of breathable cotton pants that would do the same job and probably last a lot longer.

Penneys is not an outlier in this, either. Countless companies are marketing perimenopause and menopause to the max. According to reports, the global menopause market was worth $16.93 billion in 2023 and is set to grow. A couple of years ago, Vogue even declared the menopause wellness sector was an “untapped market worth an estimated $600 billion.” Whatever the real number is, it’s an attractive prospect for marketers, entrepreneurs and those ready to make lots and lots of cold hard cash. 

Target market?

Unsurprisingly, it’s almost impossible for me to go through my day without someone trying to hawk me a menopause or perimenopause wellness product. I’ve been spun lines on miracle supplements to tackle brain fog, balance my hormones and make me sleep like a baby.

There are hot flush cooling sprays, the aforementioned knickers, vests and even tights.

There’s a growing range of menopause make up, face creams, serums, shampoos and facials. Tech is in on the action too with apps and menopause trackers.

Some of these might be genuinely helpful, but there’s so much of them, that it’s hard to know. The reality is that two in every three women will experience at least one menopausal symptom. The symptoms associated with the menopause are vast and can vary in severity.

Still, the cynic in me can’t shift the feeling that most of this stuff is little more than cashing in on women’s misery, vulnerability and hopes for an end to some of their debilitating symptoms. It’s almost to the point that if I now stub my toe at the age of 41, there will be a perimenopause plaster on the market to fix it because a regular plaster just won’t cut it.


The marketing mania aside, what is encouraging to see is that menopause is much more on the agenda. Both it and perimenopause are being talked about more openly since Saint Joe unwittingly broke down the menopause barriers on his Liveline show in May 2021. The conversation has grown since then and it feels like my generation is going to be the first tranche of women who won’t have to whisper our way through the menopause.

We’re talking about it and sharing experiences. We’re acknowledging that menopause isn’t some terrible disease, it’s a natural part of our lives and while it can be a right sh*tshow at times, there can in fact there can be upsides too.

Most importantly, it feels like we’re taking charge of it, rather than have it just happen to us. Well, that’s the hope, right? But is this just a marketing con too? Is this really women’s lived experience of the menopause? Because to be honest, despite all the talk, I’m still not much clearer on what to expect or what I need to do. Thanks to the marketing boffins, I seem to know more about menopausal face creams and anti-hot flush knickers than I do about my HRT options or steps I need to take to look after my bones or bladder.

I sometimes sit and wonder, should I take that magnesium glycinate supplement I keep seeing on TikTok or slap on that menopause cream, even though it looks suspiciously like every other anti-ageing cream on my shelf? Will any of these things do any good? Or should I just fork out the €70 and go to the GP for a pre-emptive chat? The rational side of my brain knows most of these products are just a marketing ploy. But when you are bombarded with a plethora of perimenopause and menopause marketing from every angle, it’s hard to sift out the bull.

It’s even harder when you find yourself overwhelmed by being the mum to two young children and left carrying the mental load of the family, as well as your work and other commitments. It’s at these tired, low moments I think, well perhaps one of those fecking supplements will have me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and not walking into a room and forgetting what I went in there for.

In the cold light of day, what I do know is that instead of menopause knickers and face cream, I’d prefer to see more bricks and mortar resources for women. I’d like to see more education and understanding from GPs on the topic, who I hear anecdotally from friends who seem to be playing catch up. I’d like to see employers taking the menopause more seriously and talk about it, rather than just write it into their company charter.

Mainly, I’d like to see more universal access to dedicated menopause clinics, so that your average woman going through an average menopause, can still seek specialised help if she wants it, without having to shell out a fortune to do so.

Niamh O’Reilly is a freelance writer and wrangler of two small boys, who is winging her way through motherhood, her forties and her eyeliner.

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