Menopause is for men too, particularly if you live or work with women of menopausal age (40 – 55 ish)
You might be thinking: “What has happened to my wife (or colleague; sister; aunt…)?”
The usually headstrong and confident lady you know might have transformed into a tearful and anxious version of herself. She might be raging at the world when she used to be calm and rational.
If she’s in her 40’s – 50’s (no, don’t go and ask her), chances are, she’s experiencing the hormonal roller coaster that is menopause.
Before you run off in panic, know this: it is temporary. Menopause is a natural transition that every woman goes through.
Menopause affects men too and the aim of this post, is to provide you with some insight into what she is going through so that you can support her in whatever way needed.
Regardless of whether it’s your partner, your colleague or your friend, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively if you understand menopause and it’s effects.
So here’s a quick, no-fuss overview of:
- What is menopause?
- How long will it last?
- What’s with all the symptoms?
- How to help and support her
What is menopause?
Menopause: is the time when a woman has stopped menstruating for 12 consecutive months.
Peri-menopause: is the start of the hormonal roller coaster that is causing the lady in your life to seem, how shall I say this? Out of sorts? Irrational? A red hot mess?
It is the transition time when women go from the reproductive phase to the non-reproductive phase of life. HINT: she may still be fertile so be warned. It can start as early as 40 and go on until mid 50’s.
This is when symptoms are often at their worst. Many women don’t realise it’s their hormones causing them so much trouble as they are grappling with the demands of a career, children, aging parents… etc
It is often a busy time in woman’s life, a time when she puts herself last on the list of priorities. When she finds herself blindsided by peri-menopause, the effects can be dramatic.
Some women will suffer so much that their confidence is eroded and many chose to leave work as they become overwhelmed.
When does it happen and how long will it last?
This depends on the cause of menopause:
- It can occur naturally – often from mid 40’s
- As a result of surgery: removing both ovaries causes a rapid drop in oestrogen resulting in often sudden and severe symptoms
- Medical intervention: caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy that has damaged the ovaries
- Induced: medically induced either due to surgery or to treat conditions such as endometriosis
The length of time it lasts will depend on the above factors but it typically lasts until early/mid 50s. Some women will sail through in a few years whereas others may take up to 10 years.
Whilst all women go through this transition, each woman has her own journey.
If viewed as a natural hormonal change like puberty, conversations and support can be easier to offer.
Fun Fact: humans and whales are the only species to transition through menopause.
About 75% of women experience peri-menopause symptoms to varying degrees. A key challenge is that western society still views menopause as a taboo, a sign of aging and embarrassing. A topic best avoided. This lack of conversation leads to misunderstanding (on your behalf) and frustration and resentment (on her behalf).
So, read on, arm yourself with some knowledge and then have a chat with the lady in your life (if she is open to it).
I won’t go into too much detail, but the most commonly reported symptoms (of about 34 possibilities) are:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Disrupted sleep (often caused by the sweats)
- Irritability, moodiness, irrational behaviour
- Brain fog
- Itchy skin
- Weight gain, predominantly around the waist
These symptoms are the result of her hormones fluctuating and it’s worth noting that symptoms can evolve at different times and intensities.
What can you do?
Firstly, avoid comments like “oh there go the hormones” or “must be that time of the month” – consider yourself warned. These are highly inflammatory remarks to a lady who’s already feeling hot and flustered.
As I said before, every woman will experience her own version of menopause. This makes it impossible to give a “top 10 solutions” list.
Offering a sympathetic ear and a glass of cold water goes a long way.
In personal relationships it may be easier to broach the subject and to ask how she is feeling.
When it comes to the workplace, a menopause policy is a good place to start. Training staff and offering education and information will let staff know that they can talk freely about their situation and ask for help if needed. Flexible work arrangements can be helpful too and in this post-covid world this may be easier to implement than prior to 2020.
There are a number of lifestyle factors that can minimise symptoms.
- avoiding alcohol
- exercising regularly
- managing stress
- eating a plant based, non-processed diet
Sounds simple, but many women struggle to employ these strategies when the busy-ness of everyday life is all consuming.
You might like to explore some of these together (but tread carefully before trying to pry her Friday night G&T out of her hand). Offering to be an exercise buddy, giving up alcohol with her or taking some of the mental load could be a good place to start and show solidarity.
Since every woman will have her own experience of menopause, every woman’s treatment strategy will vary.
MHT (menopause hormone therapy, previously HRT) has come a long way. Finding a doctor who understands women’s health is a good place to start if a woman decides to explore medical treatment. For women who have a history of cancer and related treatments, MRT might not be an option.
Anja Lineen from the Wellbeing Toolkit, provides comprehensive training around the various natural strategies women can implement to minimise symptoms and thrive during this time of change.
We help businesses retain female staff by becoming menopause friendly workplaces. Be it developing an appropriate policy, educating staff with face to face and on demand learning or providing resources for staff to access.
If you would like more information about workplace policies, education and training, visit our business page where you’ll find resources for your workplace.
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