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The Wessexes

The Countess of Wessex speaks out about menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy as she takes up new patronage


Photo: Benjamin Wareing

The Countess of Wessex has become the new patron of Wellbeing of Women, a women’s health charity dedicated to saving and changing the lives of women, girls, and babies. The charity also helps to improve the health and wellbeing of a woman’s life through research, education, and advocacy.

The Countess started her new role by joining in on a video call, speaking with Professor Dame Lesley Regan, and women who are working to tackle the taboos surrounding three specific areas of women’s health – menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy.

On the topic of menopause, the Countess spoke with Sarah Jane Cale, the founder of Positive Menopause, a website that offers information and advice for menopausal women. The Countess and Sarah shared their own experiences of menopause and the different challenges women face as they get older. Out of approximately 13 million women in the workplace over the age of 40, one in four have considered leaving their jobs when they reach menopause.

Sophie said: “We all talk about having babies, but nobody talks about their periods. Nobody talks about the menopause. Why not? It’s something that’s incredibly normal.

“But it’s something that is very hidden. And I think it’s time to say enough, we need to bring this out on onto the table and say let’s talk about this.”

The conversation then changed to the topic of obstetrics and gynaecology. Dr Varsha Jain, a doctor in that area, is leading the largest study ever into the health of female astronauts at the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas. Dr Jain spoke of the new project she is leading for the Wellbeing of Women, and the new treatment being researched for those struggling with abnormal uterine bleeding.

Dr Jain said: “I found when I was coming back to clinical practice in women on earth, I wasn’t able to offer the same level of personalised care that we were offering at NASA.

“I wanted to be able to offer every woman the ability to control her periods, no matter what she’s doing, or where she is, and that menstrual heath shouldn’t have an impact on her everyday life.”

Lastly, the Countess joined in on a discussion of maternal mortality in the United Kingdom. Across the Kingdon, black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women.

On the issue of maternal mortality, the Countess said:“The community message is one that is so vital, because there should be no reason for women to be suffering from maternal mortality in this country. There is no excuse for it.

We need to work harder to get those messages out there; to say, ‘Please come and access this support. It is there for you, and it is really important for your baby’s health’.”

Her Royal Highness shared her thoughts on accepting the new patronage as well as the importance of Wellbeing of Women’s work.

She said: “I’m delighted to take on this role. I have a vested interest in it. Not a woman on the planet can say they haven’t had to access support. We’ve all been there, and it’s about time we really had a grown-up conversation about it […]

Understanding what is going to happen during your life cycles is so crucial, and we shouldn’t be leaving anyone behind. It’s not only about dialogue with women and young girls, it’s men as well – this is a conversation that has to be opened up to everybody. Even if they don’t want to listen – we just have to get louder!”

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Wellbeing of Women was founded in October 1964. Obstetrician Professor Will Nixon of University College Hospital set up the Childbirth Research centre to help prevent women and babies from dying in pregnancy and childbirth. In the 1980s, Diana, Princess of Wales was an active and committed patron. In this image from 1987, the late princess can be seen attending a charity gala in honour of Birthright. The name was later changed to Wellbeing of Women in 2004.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.