Menopause… ‘women’s business’, right?

Really, men? Yes, so it would seem, I’m afraid – loads of men I know think that the menopause isn’t their issue. These are men whose female partners are in their mid-40s! These are men who, when their partners were pregnant, trotted along to antenatal classes, got informed and were amazing birth partners when their children were born, and yet, the whole menopause thing isn’t on their radar! 

It wasn’t so long ago that birth and babies were considered ‘womens’ business’ too. When I was born (ok, quite a long time ago, actually) my dad wasn’t there and didn’t change a nappy or really have much involvement with me at all for the first 9 months or so. Today’s parents understand the vital role played by the partners of pregnant women in the birth room and also postnatally and it seems laughable that it was ever any other way.

I mean, it’s taken decades to get to that point but nowadays with wonderful Instagram, Facebook etc. important messages and information and ideas are shared so much more widely and so easily. So, surely it won’t take as long for blokes to get clued up about the menopause – a process that every single woman will go through. That’s right… EVERY. SINGLE. WOMAN. 

So, men… if you have a woman in your life this affects YOU. That woman might be your mum, your sister, your partner, friend, work colleague, whatever… if that woman is one of the 50% reporting that the menopause has impacted negatively on their sex life, one of the 50% saying the same about their home life, one of the 36% who said their menopause symptoms impact their social life or one of the 45% reporting a negative impact on their work… Menopause affects you too. How can it not? In fact, 38% of partners report feeling helpless and 28% report increased arguments due to their own lack of understanding of ‘what she’s going through’.

Now, relax. You don’t need medical-degree knowledge on the menopause, you don’t need to read tons of books or sit down with your work colleagues and ask them how their vulvas are doing either… there’s nothing to feel scared, embarrassed or bogged-down about. You just need to be aware of some real basics (basics that lots of women aren’t aware of, to be honest) and, if it’s appropriate, be prepared to ask questions and listen.

So, the basics I’m talking about here are the really common symptoms of the menopause. Now, it may be that the significant woman in your life doesn’t know about these either – I didn’t a year ago. At 48 I knew 3 facts about the menopause: periods stop, hot flushes and night sweats start. That’s it. So, for a few months I was gradually self-diagnosing myself with dementia, depression, bi-polar and various cancers because I had 17 of the following 35 symptoms with zero idea that they were anything to do with the menopause/perimenopause: 

Dry skin, weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disruption, insomnia, exhaustion, mood swings, palpitation, chest pain, breathlessness, tinnitus, depression, anxiety, water retention, intolerance to alcohol/caffeine, hair loss or thinning, vaginal dryness, bladder weakness, incontinence, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, lack of libido, change of body shape, breast enlargement, dry eyes, dry mouth, itchy skin, hearing loss, memory loss, poor concentration, foggy thinking, aching joints, stiffness, gum disease.

If you’re reading those and  having a lighbulb moment because you recognise them either in someone you know or yourself, then it’s probably time to start having conversations and getting informed. Because doing so will only have benefits for you and those around you, whether your male or female. 

Here are some great places to start:

Meg’s Menopause

The Menopause Doctor

Menopause Support