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Why I may have cause to thank Ulrika for making a meal of the menopause

PUBLISHED: 14:46 13 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:01 13 May 2019

Ulrika Jonsson has a lot to say for herself. But that's a good thing these days, says Liz Nice Photo: Ian West

Ulrika Jonsson has a lot to say for herself. But that's a good thing these days, says Liz Nice Photo: Ian West

Of course Ulrika Jonsson is making a fuss about the menopause, making a fuss is what she does. But, says Liz Nice, on this occasion, it's a good thing.

Piers Morgan experiencing childbirth pains was TV gold. But if men had to give birth, chances are it would be a lot easier Photo: ITVPiers Morgan experiencing childbirth pains was TV gold. But if men had to give birth, chances are it would be a lot easier Photo: ITV

The great unmentionables have been a big part of my life.

When I was a teenager, I wondered if you could get pregnant standing up after a rumour went around school that this was a surefire way of getting away with having sex with no ill effects.

Fortunately, I had More! magazine - which I later worked for - who kindly explained that actually you could get pregnant any which way and inadvertently convinced me to stay away from men for my entire school years in case I brushed up against one of them and ended up with twins.

Fast forward to actual pregnancy and I discovered the next great unmentionable - 
childbirth.

"What's it really like?" I asked my mother.

"Oh, I really don't remember," she said, breezily.

After four pregnancies, I felt this unlikely. When pressed, my stoic mum, who has never knowingly complained about anything, finally conceded, "Well, it does hurt a bit but you don't really remember it afterwards."

A bit! Blimey! It's like pushing a bowling ball through a straw for heaven's sake! And as for not remembering it, let's just say that after having my second son, who arrived without time for pain relief apart from a last minute blast of gas and air administered only when I threatened to kill someone, I decided, rather firmly, not to have another.

My firstborn meanwhile, sailed into this world, Zen-like. On that occasion I had an epidural, felt nothing, and enjoyed an episode of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway as my baby was coming out.

Another great unmentionable was revealed: "Why doesn't every woman have an epidural?" I wondered. "Childbirth doesn't have to hurt at all."

It'll be cost, of course - a cost which I'm sure would be considered essential if childbirth was a man thing.

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Last week, I took great pleasure in seeing Piers Morgan on GMTV wearing a childbirth simulator. As his delightful nemesis Susannah Reid pointed out, the pain he was subjected to - which he could remove at any time - was merely akin to the early stages of first contractions when you're still supposed to be at home. Lord knows how he would have coped at the pushing stage. I should imagine an epidural would have been demanded and procured. But then, he's a man.

Women have, for years, faced a barrage of do-gooders telling us that we should all go for 'natural birth', wearing their hypno-nonsense as a badge of honour.

Stuff that! You don't have a kidney removed without pain relief and boast about your fortitude, so why a baby? It makes me mad - and of course, because I talk about unmentionables, I've been called that a lot.

Now, at the age of 48, I face the next of the great female secrets. The menopause.

Fortunately, there are no signs of it yet, except that I'm a bit vague - but, as colleagues and friends would unilaterally point out, in my case, it would be hard to tell.

Strangely, however, people are talking about the menopause a lot at the minute. At last! Kristin Scott Thomas did a famous speech about it on Fleabag! "You're free, no longer a slave!", the BBC is doing a special series this week, and Ulrika Jonsson had a two page spread in the Daily Mail on Saturday, talking about how she thought she had early onset dementia, until a friend pointed out that the menopause was 'all' it was.

What struck me about Ulrika's story - though admittedly my first thought was 'trust her to make a meal of it' - was her point that it was ludicrous that she had got to the age she had and worked in the media all her life but was still none the wiser about the symptoms she would face because they are so rarely disclosed.

Insomnia, exhaustion, memory loss, pain in the nether regions, lack of interest in sex, as well as the hot flushes which are mentioned because they are the most palatable manifestation, are not a nice thought to look forward to, but at least if we talk about this stuff, we will know we are not dying, and merely going through a normal life stage.

We will also know about HRT, which by the sounds of it, is, for many women, a must.

Of course, what these unmentionables all have in common is that they are issues that affect women.

Perhaps this is why they have long been unmentionable because we are supposed to put up and shut up?

Which is why we should be grateful to UIrika. She might be a drama queen who has made me cringe on many occasions with her need to spread her suffering to the wider world each time another husband falls by the wayside or an England manager breaks her heart.

But I realise that the reason I cringe is because I have been indoctrinated into thinking women shouldn't make a fuss.

Next time I see her carping, I will remember to thank her.

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