Dr Louise R Newson, Visiting Fellow of Murray Edwards College, GP and menopause expertAndrew Crowley with permission for Varsity

Within seconds of speaking to Dr Newson about her work on the menopause and hormone treatments, it’s clear that she is intensely motivated in her efforts to increase understanding of, and support for, those who experience the menopause, and will fight tooth and nail to get women what they need and deserve.

The menopause affects around 51% of the population, with perimenopausal symptoms usually starting in women from around 45-55 years old. About 3% of women experience early menopause: “When you look around your college, there will be young people who are menopausal but maybe not realising it [...] so many people think it’s about fertility, periods, and it’s not, it’s about hormones.”

The key to understanding this is to link it with pre-existing knowledge. Dr Newson says “knowledge is power” and that “hormones affect everybody – men, women, children, adults – so talking about hormones rather than menopause really is important.” She believes this is how word about the menopause can be spread to young people. For many young women, the menopause seems a faraway concept referred to as the “change” which affects only older women, something brushed under the carpet and hushed. Dr Newson describes earlier generations as “hiding behind their aprons”, but how much has really changed?

“I can’t think of any other area of medicine that is so neglected when it comes to research”

Some argue that a more intersectional approach is required when discussing the menopause, so I ask Dr Newson about those who do not identify as women yet still experience the menopause. She explains “that when I say women, I mean people who menstruate [...] people who don’t identify as women for various reasons are disadvantaged – there absolutely needs to be more research.”

Reflecting on the myriad of inequalities that impact access to treatment, she tells me: “Sadly there are so many women missing out on healthcare – those who are homeless, in prison [..] I can’t think of any other area of medicine that is so neglected when it comes to research.”

She sums up this inequality perfectly by referencing the taboo surrounding women’s libido. She states, “men could just go and buy some Viagra [and then] can have sex, whereas women, they have to really plead and it’s almost embarrassing that we want our libido back.”

Dr Newson’s key message is that “it’s not just talking about it [the menopause] – it’s actually doing something about it.” She adds, fiercely, “we have evidence-based treatment that would improve well-being, improve quality of life, reduce symptoms and also reduce risk of future disease.” Driven by compassion and a duty of care, Dr Newson asks all menopausal people to consider, “what are the risks of not taking hormones rather than the risks of taking them? You’re taking drugs for blood pressure [...] Or all sorts of medicines which are not natural, biological hormones.”

A 2021 survey by Forbes found that 73% of women do not treat their menopause symptoms. Given what she perceives as inadequate public sector resources devoted to menopause research and treatment, Dr Newson admits, “the only way I could do menopause work was to do it privately”. She adds that she “always wanted to work for the NHS”, and that her clinic’s profits go towards funding research and her app, Balance, which has had over one million downloads.

“Women are really powerful... if you’ve got the right women around you I think you can do amazing things”

“This is going to sound awful but I’m not actually proud – I could do better – there’s a lot of people who think I should be really pleased and I’m not because I think about the amount of women who aren’t accessing the right treatment.” There is always more to be done, and Dr Newson’s fight is not over until every menstruating person restores their bodies to where they belong, in good health, in good strength, and with the right measures in place to help them cope.

Murray Edwards College, in all its feminist, brutalist glory, sits at the heart of this conversation. Dome is not just home, it’s a centre for improved policy for staff members who are going through the menopause, spearheaded by Dorothy Byrne, president of Murray Edwards since 2021. Dr Newson describes her as “so inspirational”, and says that Byrne’s example proves that “age and gender should not hold people back in career changes.”

While working at Channel 4, Dorothy commissioned The Truth about the Menopause, which had such an impact that the UK temporarily ran out of HRT after it aired. When asked about her own experience with the menopause, Byrne states: “I was inspired to commission the programme because my own experience of the menopause was so bad. I was exhausted constantly. I could not lead a college if I was not on HRT.”


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Dr Newson and the Medwards president have worked closely to create a new menopause policy, launched last year, which aims to offer support for staff members at the college. But, as Dr Newson emphasises, “the problem with policy is that they’re only as good as how they’re used.” A good policy creates an atmosphere where “people learn about the menopause and are able to recognise it in colleagues, which is really important as well.”

Dr Newson is very much in favour of women-only colleges: “women are really powerful [...] if you’ve got the right women around you I think you can do amazing things.” It is for this reason, when asked about which college she would choose, Murray Edwards comes out on top. “As long as Dorothy is president, my answer will always be Medwards!”