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The Menopause

People say more should be done to increase education about menopause because it affects 50 percent of the population.

But that’s not true…

One way or another, menopause affects everyone – men too. If someone close to you is going through menopause, it can be stressful for both of you, putting a strain on her wellbeing and your relationship, writes Sharon James, Women’s well-being and menopause coach.

One of the most significant issues is that women often don’t know what’s going on and how to navigate it themselves. In this case, it’s almost impossible for men to fathom. However, if you have a mother, wife, sister, daughter, female colleagues, or female friends, understanding menopause matters. 

It’s important to know that menopause can affect women mentally and physically in so many different ways. There’s no one size fits all experience, and chances are what your sister goes through will be different from your wife, for example. This is partly why it can seem so overwhelming. 

When a UK menopause brand asked 500 males aged 45-54 to name menopause symptoms, 70 percent couldn’t name more than one. There are actually around 50 symptoms associated with menopause; some of the most common ones include hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, itchy skin, hair loss, a drop in libido, memory loss, and unexplained weight gain. 

Sharon James, Women’s well-being and menopause coach

These changes occur when a woman’s oestrogen and progesterone levels fall. It is a gradual process that tends to happen in stages, starting with perimenopause. Perimenopause can begin eight to 10 years before menopause, which is officially classed as twelve months after a woman’s last period.

Perimenopause usually starts in a woman’s 40s but can start in the 30s as well. During this time, the ovaries gradually produce less oestrogen; many women may experience menopause symptoms. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, the drop in oestrogen accelerates. 

Post-menopause symptoms tend to ease, although some women continue to experience menopausal symptoms for a decade or longer. It also has a lasting effect on their bodies because the lower level of oestrogen increases the risk of several health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease. 

Menopause and marriage 

When women go through changes to their bodies they can’t control, it can significantly impact their self-esteem, relationships, and outlook on life. No wonder then that it often alters the status quo at home.

A survey of 1000 women by the Family Law Menopause Project and Newson Health Research and Education found eight out of 10 experiencing marriage problems said the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause strain their family life. However, 65 percent of those who had been offered treatment to alleviate symptoms said it had a positive effect on their relationship.

Most of the women who were not offered support or treatment said that, if they had been, it might have saved their marriage. All of which links back to a major lack of communication and awareness.

Here are some tips for showing you care and maintaining a healthy relationship:

– Be prepared for mood swings

Flexibility and patience are key. If your partner snaps at you for a seemingly unreasonable or irrational reason, don’t get defensive, it’s not aimed at you. Walk away and breathe. The rant can be over in seconds, but if you react, it could turn into a full-blown argument.

– Help to boost her confidence

Many women feel less confident about their appearance as they go through menopause. Remind her that she looks great, and make time for the two of you to connect with no strings attached.

– Share your feelings

Nothing creates resentment like not opening up to each other. This transition affects you, too, so explain how you feel. While your role is to be supportive, don’t suffer in silence or resign yourself to taking all the heat.

– Ask simple questions

“What can I do to help?” or “How are you feeling?” can be the difference between having a healthy or fractured relationship with your partner. Also, take time to educate yourself with evidence-based information so you can talk from a more informed perspective. But don’t become a know it all.

– Seek help if needed

That goes for either of you. If the situation makes you overly angry or disconnected from your partner, you may benefit from some professional help, separately or together.

Menopause in the workplace

It’s not only at home that you should be aware of what menopause means. You also have a crucial role in creating a more sensitive culture at work. Various studies show that many women, especially those in senior positions, seriously consider leaving their roles or don’t take opportunities for promotion because of the menopause. Not feeling able to talk openly about it adds to the problem and ultimately results in highly talented team members exiting the business.

Again, one of the most beneficial things you can do is have conversations that help to reduce the stigma and empower female colleagues to share their experiences and ask for support where needed. That said, never push anyone into discussing something they’re not comfortable with.

The more educated all employees are about the menopause, the better. That’s not to single out men. The same goes for younger women in the workforce as well. Some types of training can be beneficial so people know what symptoms their coworkers might be experiencing and how they can help accommodate them. Always try to be as adaptable and helpful as possible, just as you would want colleagues to be, if a personal or health-related issue arises that might affect your performance at work.

Luckily things are changing around menopause education, and more men want to help influence the shift. Stigmatising half of the population for a natural stage of their life makes no sense, and failing to acknowledge that comes at a considerable cost. Everyone would be in a better position if we were more empathetic and aware.