Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause (Channel 4, 9pm) suffers from a slightly misleading title, with all the “sex” stuff relegated to the final five minutes. Rather than muck about with bedroom toys, Davina McCall is more interested in exploring how the health service deals with menopause and in delving into misinformation around subjects such as hormone replacement therapy and herbal treatments for diminishing levels of oestrogen.
This is a deep dive then. And not always of massive relevance to an Irish audience. McCall despairs, for instance, that there is no NHS specialist menopausal clinic anywhere between Leeds and Scotland. A lack of training on the subject for GPs in the UK is discussed, too.
But McCall also speaks honestly about her own reluctance to confront the menopause. She started to have hot flushes aged 44 and was astonished at the lack of information available to women regarding changes in their body cycle. And she reveals she is on HRT. “Two years ago I wouldn’t have told you that,” she says.
Just one in 10 women going through the menopause in the UK is on HRT. The reluctance is largely down to reports linking the treatment to breast cancer. However, according to McCall, risk of cancer is is increased by just four in 1,000. Her argument is that the benefits far outweigh the possibility of a downside.
McCall talks to women who have had struggled with menopause. Actor Michelle Heaton recalls "anxiety, itchy skin and hair loss". Hayley Cockman describes how she went through the menopause at just 12. Sayeeda Warsi, a British politician, laments the "brain fog" that descended in her late 40s.
The film is informative and frank. But it isn't quite as racy as the title implies. As pointed out, the "sex" bit pops up right at the end, as McCall meets Samantha Evans, founder of online sex toy retailer Jo Divine.
Evans reveals she has a loyal customer aged 95. McCall gamely picks up a sex toy. “Oh no – I can’t turn it off,” she complains. “Help”. That’s as light-hearted as it gets. Otherwise the tone is – as the subject merits – thoughtful and reflective.
“When I hit menopause I couldn’t talk to anybody,” says McCall. “I felt so alone.” In sharing her experiences she has done her bit to demystify a process which, as she points out, 50 per cent of the population will go through sooner or later.