At Rowena Health Menopause Specialist Clinic we realise there are lots of very positive measures being taken within society to support women better during the menopause, but what about menopause advice for men? Menopause is a topic that is becoming more openly discussed and visible with celebrities talking openly about it, or with support being provided in the workplace. Men tell me that they wished they knew more though; it isn’t just women that benefit from the education and information available, men often recognise they can (and want to) help more.
This article is therefore designed to provide men with a better understanding of what is going on; what they can do to support and help; and that this is something that can often be solved together be that in a relationship, with friends, or within the workplace.
What has happened to her?
So this is often the first question I get asked. I have had men tell me ‘she is the same woman I love and married, but right now she seems to be really struggling and I just don’t know how to help’. Others report much more extreme, apparently life threatening concerns, but on the whole the sentiment is the same. Of course the women in your life can take many forms and sometimes it may be someone in your team at work, for example, that seems to no longer be doing as well as they were; from a loss of confidence to talking about leaving.
If she is in her mid to late 40’s and beyond, there is every chance that she is experiencing symptoms of the perimenopause or menopause.
What are the differences between perimenopause and menopause?
You probably hear a lot about menopause, but much less about perimenopause; for many men it is a term they have never heard of before.
Perimenopause is the period of time leading up to menopause when a woman’s body undergoes hormonal changes that eventually lead to the end of menstruation. During perimenopause, a woman’s hormone levels can fluctuate, causing irregular periods and other symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings and sleep disturbances. Perimenopause can start in a woman’s late 30s or early 40s, but it typically lasts for several years before menopause is reached.
Menopause is defined as the point at which a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
I remember my mum saying she had hot flushes at this age, but there seems a lot more to it
Many of us remember our female relatives as being very stoic when it came to the menopause and it wasn’t a topic that was often discussed at any length. Thankfully it is a topic we are much more open about discussing and supporting today and the benefits of doing so are super important.
Much more is also known today about the various symptoms of menopause and, something important to note, is that every woman is different and while some can go through the menopause with very little impact on their lives, others really do suffer extremely from the symptoms.
At Rowena Health, we generally look at 28 principal symptoms of menopause, which are shown in the chart below. Over time I have been looking at the varying levels to which women experience these symptoms, based on the Green Climacteric Scale and whilst the data below is drawn from hundreds of responses to my survey, it is unlikely to be statistically valid at this stage; it should hopefully give you a sense though as to the sorts of symptoms experienced.
It is also worth reflecting that many women don’t really understand what is happening to them at this stage in their life and that the symptoms they are experiencing are in fact symptoms of the menopause (and can often be treated).
Does it go away over time?
Some menopausal symptoms may go away over time, but others may persist for years after menopause. The duration and severity of menopausal symptoms can vary greatly from woman to woman, and some women may not experience any symptoms at all.
Hot flushes and night sweats, two of the most common symptoms of menopause, may decrease in frequency and intensity over time for some women, but for others, they may persist for several years after menopause. Vaginal dryness, which can cause discomfort during sex, may also improve with time, but some women may require ongoing treatment to manage this symptom.
Other menopausal symptoms, such as mood changes, difficulty sleeping and changes in libido, can also persist beyond menopause. However, there are many treatments available to help manage menopausal symptoms and improve quality of life.
The bottom line here is that women do not need to grin and bear it; there is no need to be stoical about menopause and that getting help and treatment is a faster way to restoring their quality of life.
What other impacts should I be aware of?
One of the biggest casualties of menopause is the workplace. I see many women who have suffered a loss of confidence or through impacts to their concentration or memory, the belief that they can continue to do the job they loved and enjoyed. The fact that talented women can drop out of employment at this stage, when their value is probably most high to their organisations, is a huge loss to society overall. It is often wholly avoidable too, which is why men having a greater awareness and understanding of what is happening is so important.
When talking to some of my friends about this topic, many have reported that there aren’t that many women in the 50’s in their businesses, so it probably isn’t as much of an issue for them. What they aren’t asking, is ‘why aren’t there many women in their 50’s in my business?’
Employers and organisations are becoming much more aware of the impact of menopause on their employees and we need to collectively ensure this is a male and female conversation, not just targeted at women. I genuinely find that men want to help; they just aren’t aware of what is going on and better understanding and education will help halt this talent drain from the workforce and will be something worth doing.
How do I help?
So, I know from my own experience, that men often pride themselves on problem solving and finding solutions. It can be hard not knowing the answers, or being able to offer objective fact based advice. Hopefully this article helps with some of that and first having an understanding of what is happening is really important.
It is happening because of hormonal changes and that is something to tread carefully through, as I suspect many of you may have experienced. Presenting a menopausal woman with a stark diagnostic of the problem and your recommendations for resolving that can be fraught with danger – tread carefully!
That said, this is an area that can often be treated, either through things like Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), through non-hormonal treatments, or wider holistic treatments and lifestyle changes. But every woman is different; her hormone balance is different and the effects she is feeling are different. It is important to get professional help, either from your GP or a menopause specialist to understand the exact symptoms and to develop a treatment plan that is going to work.
It is something you should support her to do; to encourage her to get the help, advice and treatment she needs; and it is something you should do together. Frankly, many of the lifestyle changes that will make a difference, be those diet, exercise or sleep for example, are things that will improve both of your lives and you can do together.
Look out for her, she is the same person still; look out for your colleagues and friends too. If someone in your group or team is no longer themselves, this could be why and the right support could make a dramatic difference.
Some simple things to consider:
- Don’t shy away from the conversation, but be sensitive and pick the right time
- Look for the right support together; what is going to work and how quickly can you see them
- Understand the treatment plan and be part of that, where appropriate
- Reflect on whether that is working together (sensitively)
- Be supportive
- And, sometimes you may have to simply stop, take a breath and know that it will get better, if you get the support and follow the treatment plan you need
You may want to run through my online menopause symptoms questionnaire, which will give you some immediate insights into the symptoms, causes and treatment options. You can also easily book a menopause consultation together at Rowena Health.
These links may also be helpful: