Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause

Photograph: Channel 4
Rating 7.3
Streamer All4
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 45 mins

Seeing Davina on the telly is a bit of a throwback, and when we tuned into this we half expected to hear “Big Brother House, this is Davina. Please do not swear.” But maybe we’re just showing our age…which is very apt for this documentary film, where our favourite noughties presenter is lifting the lid on how society treats menopausal women.

It probably won’t surprise you that the answer is: not very well. So kudos to Davina for making this film, and calling to attention the hugely significant health issue that half of the population will at some point face. It’s shocking, then, when we learn through this film how little medical knowledge there is about an event that so many people go through in their lives. In fact, McCall tells us that GPs aren’t even taught how to help patients as a part of their essential training. And it sounds like doctors are very much needed for people experiencing menopause, with symptoms including hot flashes, hair loss, brittle bones, brain fog, insomnia and incontinence, as well as huge mental health implications such as extreme anxiety and depression.

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In the film, McCall is frank about her own experiences with menopause, which for her started aged 44. She opened up about the sleepless nights, and the hot flushes which were so intense she was convinced she was sitting in a heated chair. Speaking with professionals, celebs and other women who struggled with the menopause, Davina demystifies hormonal treatments which have caused controversy in the past. Discussing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), she debunks the idea that it leads to cancer, and she tells viewers not to waste their hard-earned cash on phony herbal treatments.

And she really does come across well. McCall has come to be a bit of a marmite figure, but here there’s no doubt that she’s got good intentions – she’s angry at the system for letting women down, and she’s gunning for change, helped along by her own honesty.

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Helen Brown in The Telegraph thought this “a cause worth getting angry about,” saying that despite the celebrity presence, “t was the regular women who were most moving: from the Essex office manager who went through the menopause aged just 12 to the former teacher who reinvented herself as a fashion designer after experiencing the loss of her fertility as the death of her former self.” In The Times, Carol Midgley thinks this an important film, saying that “given that women abandoned HRT in droves two decades ago, thanks to an alarming but outdated study, this is the stuff we need to know.” And clearly other people thought so too, with The Independent’s Joanna Whitehead reporting viewers flocking “to social media to share their own stories of being ignored and dismissed when trying to seek help and support for this entirely natural part of a woman’s life.”

First shown May 2021.

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