Royal First! Queen's Daughter-in-Law Sophie Shares Menopause Experience: 'It Feels Like a Shackle'
Sophie, Countess of Wessex is lifting the shroud of silence that surrounds women's health topics today.
The royal mom of two, who is married to the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, took on a new patronage Friday with Wellbeing of Women, Buckingham Palace said in a statement shared with PEOPLE. Wellbeing of Women is dedicated to saving and changing the lives of women, girls and babies through research, education and advocacy.
In a royal first, Countess of Wessex, 56, spoke candidly about menstruation, menopause and pregnancy in a video call with the organization's chair Professor Dame Lesley Regan and other experts.
"I've always found out when we talk about women's' health, actually, it's actually preceded by talking about women's problems or issues, which immediately puts it into an negative light," Sophie began. In accepting the role, the countess said she hopes to help normalize these taboo topics by raising them "out into the open, and not making it some kind of behind closed doors conversation."
"The menstrual cycle, periods, the menopause, having babies... you know, we all talk about having babies, but nobody talks about periods, nobody talks about the menopause, why not?" she wondered. "It's something that happens to us 12 times a year. It's something that's incredibly normal, but it's something that is hidden. And I think it's time to say 'Enough, we need to bring this out onto the table and say, let's talk about this.' "
An active promoter of gender equality and women's voices, the Queen's daughter-in-law said she was thrilled to start working with Wellbeing of Women.
"I'm delighted to take on this role. I have a vested interest in it," Sophie said.
On menopause, the royal spoke from personal experience about the stage of change.
"Really we should be celebrating the fact that we don't have to have periods anymore – it should be a liberation, but it feels like a shackle," the countess said. "It's described as something incredibly negative."
"One, yes, it's an admittance of the fact that yes, we're getting a bit older, we're not as young as we were before… and it's quite a moment to admit it."
Sophie also called for more inclusive media representation to reflect a more positive view of women aging.
"Whilst all of our media and the messaging about women's bodies, about our looks, everything is very superficial. And we're trying to cling on to all of that for as long as we possibly can," she said.
"We've got to be fit, we've got to be clever, we've got to be looking skinny, we've got to looking beautiful. We've got to look 25 years old for the rest of our lives," she said of the impossible expectations. "But unfortunately our bodies are going, 'That's fine, you can do all of that on the outside as much as you possible can or afford to, but on the inside, things are a little different.' "
In addition to her historic work with Wellbeing of Women, Sophie serves as Patron for over 70 charities and organizations for groups supporting young people and children, agriculture, avoidable blindness and the London College of Fashion.