The impact of menstruation and menopause on doctors and surgeons is the subject of a provocative new podcast. As ENT & Audiology News reported in July 2021, WENTS & Friends is a mouthpiece for Women in ENT Surgery UK, an organisation aiming to support women in all stages of training. The third episode lifts the lid on the lack of care, provision and policy for this central aspect of women’s health.

In ‘The M Word: Breaking the Taboo,’ ENT surgeon and host Nina Mistry (pictured) interviews Karen Pickering, a journalist, speaker and organiser in women's rights, about the pervasive nature of the menstrual taboo. "That's how the patriarchy operates,” says Pickering. “It forces women to mask their true needs. Whether it's in terms of what's happening inside their body or what's happening in their homes or their family responsibilities, women have to work on men's rules."

Mistry is also joined by three panellists who discuss their experiences within the NHS and the corporate world and consider how to bring about change. "To be seen as a good surgeon, as a good doctor, you have to ignore anything that has to do with your womanhood and your female bodily functions, because to do so is admitting that you are not a typical surgeon," says Rosie Baruah, a consultant in intensive care medicine and anaesthesia with a research interest in gender equity and medicine.

Baruah’s fellow panellists are Lauren Chiren, who runs the Women of a Certain Stage organisation, and Helen Cocks, a consultant ENT surgeon and clinical director of head and neck surgery in Sunderland.

"Why is it that women's health is secondary and treated as taboo?” asks Mistry. “Why are women's issues seen as private, shameful, or even made fun of and diminished? Why is it that a basic physiological need and all of the related symptoms are ignored?"

She believes the answers to these questions are vital to improving working conditions, not least because of the enormous benefits to organisations in employee well-being. By championing a positive culture around menstruation and menopause, the podcast hopes to break the taboo.

You can listen to all episodes: