The Scottish Parliament has held what is thought to be the UK’s first government debate on the menopause.
Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie led the Scottish Government debate in an attempt to break down stigma surrounding the process.
She said due to this stigma, many women are unprepared for the menopause and suffer in silence, often unaware help exists.
Ms McKelvie told MSPs: “We have to change this, to support them through the menopause and the stigma that surrounds it.
“This debate is, I believe, the first ever government debate held on the menopause so this Parliament should be proud of itself today.
“I think we can all agree that the menopause has always been stigmatised, ignored or treated as a joke at best and used as a way to denigrate women at the worst.”
Conservative MSP Annie Wells told the chamber she had started experiencing some of the first signs of the menopause.
She said: “If I’m completely honest over the past few months I have felt the start of the symptoms of the menopause and I have been a little anxious about what’s to come.
“But this debate has come at the right time for me as I have been able to learn more about it, which I am sure will make the process easier.”
Ms Wells said normalising talking about menopause is key to destigmatising it and the impact on women can be “significant”.
She said workplace support for women going through the menopause needs to be “vastly improved”.
The MSP cited an example of a constituent facing disciplinary action at the company where she has worked for more than 25 years after being signed off by her GP for severe menopausal symptoms.
Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said about 400,000 women in Scotland were going through the menopause transition, arguing this was a “normal part of life” which “has been a taboo subject for too long”.
She welcomed the debate but also stressed “our actions must match our ambitions” as she called for better health care for this group of women.
Ms Lennon said: “I hope we will see real progress in the provision of menopause care across the NHS and an end to stigma and discrimination.”
Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “This is about equity. We can’t hope to tackle the gender pay gap until women are no longer penalised for having periods, getting pregnant or going through the menopause.”
For the Liberal Democrats, Liam McArthur stressed the menopause is “not just a women’s issue”.
He said: “The problems relating to stigma, the implications in terms of inequality, whether in the workplace or in terms of access to services, these are things that need to be addressed by all.
“If we are to bring about full gender equality – whether that is in the struggle around equal pay, gender stereotypes or menopausal stigma – we need to start by talking about it, by raising awareness.”