Menopause & Asian communities with Dr Nighat Arif

Dr Night Arif

Menopause, as we know, affects around 50% of the world’s female population and also impacts any man with a woman in his life. That may be a partner, mother, friends, work colleagues. Despite the 2018 census showing that 13.8% of  the UK population is from ethnic minority backgrounds, there’s very little research dedicated to the experience of menopause for these women. 

I chatted with Dr Nighat Arif about this for Your Next Episode. Nighat is an NHS and private GP with a specialist interest in women’s health and you’ve probably seen her on television on BBC Breakfast and also heard her on BBC Radio. I’ve been following her on social media for about 9 months and I know how highly regarded she is by other professionals and also by the women she supports on there and in her practice.

Nighat explained that across the board gynaecological issues are not discussed openly and in her native Urdu there is no direct translation for the words ‘period’ or ‘menopause’ and this is one of the reasons why ethnic minority women have come to see menopause as a western problem. They may also ignore menopausal symptoms due to other circumstances such as coinciding with arranging their children’s marriages and caring for elderly parents both of which come with social and financial pressures which may blur with menopausal symptoms. Symptoms can also be different and Nighat explained that less likely are the complaints to be of hot flushes and anxiety and more of all over body pain, hurting from ‘the top of my head to the bottom of my feet’.

For many of the women from her own community that Nighat sees as a GP, the menopause simply isn’t viewed as a medical condition or something to ‘bother’ your busy doctor with – it’s viewed more as just something else to be endured as a woman. 

All of this means that women may suffer symptoms for decades and GPs risk missing menopausal diagnoses and possibly even mis-diagnosing. With one in four women suffering horrendously and possibly feeling suicidal. This needs to change.

Nighat is one of those generously giving her time to start conversations that will hopefully, in time, lead to menopause being normalized and no longer taboo and shrouded in secrecy and shame. She’s also worked with Diane Danzebrink, Pausitivity and Jane Lewis, Author of My Menopausal Vagina to get information translated into Urdu.

NHS England is also a driving force considering diversity and health inequalities and local CCGs across the country are each looking at their communities to see what needs to change.

Your Next Episode Podcast

Your Next Episode Podcast – Louise Daniels and Aimee Cooper address midlife issues and sometimes crisis for those bursting into their 40s, 50s and beyond. Every Monday we chat with interesting people and experts about the variables, challenges, changes and opportunities of middle-age for men and women… hormones, parenting, family, divorce, mental health, relationships, menopause, health, sex, careers, lifestyle. Always upbeat, often funny, subscribe now to this educational and entertaining podcast. Join in the conversation on Instagram , Twitter  and Facebook .