(Bloomberg) -- Carol King, a 53 year-old former chef in the hospitality industry was on her way to work one morning when she found herself, as she later said, “literally standing in a pool of my own blood.”
As King would share with her 94,000 followers on TikTok, the incident was the first time she experienced flooding, a symptom of perimenopause, or the transition towards the natural end of monthly, regular periods. Women from around the world echoed her shock, along with their own jarring episodes.@auntiecarols50s
Reply to @dianbrown773 Flooding in Menopause. #perimenopausehealth #menopausesymptoms #menopausesupport #menopausetips #perimenopausehelp #menopause♬ original sound - Menopause Tips | Carol King
King, who quit her job in Barbados to create social media content, is among a group of women trying to use Tiktok to break through a deafening silence around menopause. When told she was in menopause, “the thing that kept coming back to me was, ‘How is it that I don't know this?’’’ she said. “I grew up around so many strong women and no one ever had this conversation with me.”
A few months and hundreds of thousands of views later, King has become one of the most prominent TikTok creators posting content about night sweats and brain fog, using hashtags like #MenopauseTok. The comments section of her account is a free-flowing exchange of questions and encouraging messages from other menopausal women — and a far cry from c-suites and workplaces where scores of women near the peak of their careers have few avenues for open discussion and some end up quitting because of their symptoms.
About a quarter of the world’s female population is set to be experiencing menopause by 2030, according to an analysis by consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. Meanwhile the global market for menopausal products is growing rapidly, at a rate of more than 5%, according to a report from analysts at Grand View Research who see it rising from its 2021 level of about $15 billion to reach $24.4 billion by 2030. From a broader perspective, each woman experiencing or entering menopause will spend an average of $2,100 a year over about a decade, according to the Female Founders Fund, a venture capital firm that invests exclusively in women-led companies.
Yet an even larger potential market is largely untapped; stigma and silence remain obstacles to investment in the world of post-reproductive healthcare, according to the fund. Only $254 million has been raised in the space of menopause startups since the start of 2009, said analysts at Frost and Sullivan, while femtech startups as a group raised almost $500 million in 2019 alone.
Menopause-related companies looking to tap TikTok are doing so just as the platform is morphing into a search-engine alternative to Google for 18- to 24-year-olds. While it’s been a winning strategy for members of Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, questions remain over the viability of the platform — known for its dance challenges and memes — as a marketing tool for people in their 40s or older.
The response to creators like Tamsen Fadal tell a different story. At 51, Fadal was determined to find online communities of women going through menopause but felt that she had aged out of using a platform like TikTok. With a friend’s encouragement, however, she posted a video where she listed the “34 symptoms of menopause,” including brain fog, decreased sex drive, hair loss, irregular periods, mood swings and weight gain. More than 1 million views later, Fadal has attracted a following of more than 100,000 on the platform, where she dispels menopause myths and reminds women that they're not alone.@tamsenfadal
Reply to @jolopezboricua These are the 34 symptoms of menopause. Share ones you’ve experienced in the comments. #menopause #50plus #over50♬ Blade Runner 2049 - Synthwave Goose
One area where she’s had impact is in countering widespread fear of hormone replacement therapy. A controversial 2002 study concluded that the treatment for menopause symptoms had more detrimental than beneficial effects and was associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer and blood clots. Since then, however, more analysis of the 2002 study has moderated views of those risks, although public opinion “has not changed yet, leading to important negative consequences for women’s health and quality of life,’’ researchers wrote in a 2019 retrospective.
Learning about the changing view of treatment for menopause symptoms has been an eye-opener for Fadal, and she’s passed it along via TikTok. Hormone replacement therapy “scared me so much before I really understood anything about it,” she shared in one of her videos.
A few companies are looking to promote a return to using hormone therapy to alleviate menopause symptoms. Alloy, a telemedicine platform that prescribes generic estrogen, is looking to sponsor content creators like Fadal through paid partnerships and untie the stigma around hormone therapy.
Kindra, which sells estrogen-free supplements that have not been approved by federal regulators, opened its TikTok account in December 2020 and has seen “incredibly favorable” responses from the creators they’ve partnered with, citing a 20% increase in revenue. Their CEO, Catherine Balsam-Schwaber said that TikTok, compared to Instagram, is a platform where women seem comfortable sharing their “raw, unedited” truths.
Creators like King worry that with the rise of menopause discussion comes the risk of a slew of products marketed as remedies for hot flashes or night sweats, but don’t actually work.
“We're gonna have to start sifting out the rubbish from what's really good,” King said. “We'll have to be careful about just everybody throwing a product out there.”
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