Why do men need to talk about this topic?
Well, it will more than likely either indirectly or directly affect them at various points throughout their lives…maybe their mother will experience a myriad of symptoms, or it might be their grandma, their sister or their work colleagues. Sometimes, only realising that other women in their lives have been affected when their partner or wife starts to experience symptoms which in turn impacts their own lives.
When something impacts your own life and those you care about it’s probably a good idea to find out more – not rocket science really!
As a society we’ve complicated matters by using words like taboo, with media publishing sensationalistic headlines and unfortunately a repetitive and overwhelmingly negative view of this transitional period in a woman’s life. I’m not at all underestimating the debilitating effects these symptoms can have for some women but as individuals our approach to coping with symptoms can make a significant difference.
I do have a certain amount of sympathy for men when trying to get to grips with this topic, which is why I published Men…Let’s Talk Menopause. For some it can feel like relationships have been hit with a sledge hammer…life becoming unpredictable from day to day…the person you’ve known all these years starts to morph into an unrecognisable character, only resembling their previous persona on brief occasions, when hormones decide to fluctuate into alignment from time to time.
One of the most important facts…
Every woman will have a very different and unique experience. Such a simple statement to make isn’t it and one which has been said many times before, but the previous points only describe a percentage of the population and many manage to steer themselves successfully through this stage in their lives with minimal medical assistance, if any, but with a positive, informed approach. Getting some good, basic, practical information and resources on board making that key difference to, not only being able to cope with symptoms, but having the additional benefit of contributing to a better quality of life long term with grounded lifestyle choices in place.
That applies not only to women but men – another obvious statement to make I know – I’ll add in here that men it’s important for you, for example, to look after your pelvic floor health as well…thinking about potential urinary leakage and erectile dysfunction later in life, not to mention your overall core strength…here’s a useful link https://www.squeezyapp.com/pelvic-floor-exercise-cue-for-men/
Ah there I go veering off into the world of genitourinary symptoms…always tempting…let me get back on track!
A couple of points to mention for any men reading this post and for any women who might, bizarrely, not have any sympathy for symptomatic, menopausal women (who would have thought – but sadly there are some out there!) Women don’t choose to experience these symptoms, don’t have any choice in the rate at which their oestrogen levels decline and fluctuate, may be experiencing a genuine feeling of lack of control, even a dislike for how their bodies are behaving and an over riding basic desire for life to return to normal.
This is also true though isn’t it for many who experience symptoms as a result of having a myriad of different health conditions…diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer…the list goes on…but, with each health condition there are ways to cope and medications/treatments available which can help to ease the symptoms. The same applies for the menopause, the difference being, that every woman will experience it.
Getting men to take note and take an interest in this topic might not be as hard as you would imagine, especially if they’re concerned about somebody in particular or care about providing support for their staff.
Here I just wanted to highlight a few reasons why men don’t attend information sessions being provided within the workplace…either, believe it or not, they are genuinely busy at that time, they maybe consider that some women wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing, (what could be for them), a sensitive topic in front of male colleagues or they are just hesitant, even nervous, themselves to come along. I only add these insights as one or two attendees (primarily female) of sessions will often remark on the lack of male colleagues attending.
A simple solution – which works remarkably well – provide men only sessions. These sessions are usually not only highly interactive but are well attended.
So men how can you help…
Make sure you’re informed – having a gander at Men…Let’s Talk Menopause can be a good starting point to getting the basics on board – you can speed read it in about an hour! It also has a useful symptom checker and a good list of resources – do have a look at these invaluable links – I’ve also added them at the end of this post. Information needs to be gained from a variety of accredited resources to gain a rounded picture, don’t be fooled into thinking one person or organisation has all the answers – they don’t!
In a nutshell…
The key to coping with symptoms – absolutely be more informed but also be prepared to take that conscious decision to make a difference yourself – be open to looking at all options available to cope with symptoms – really taking a good look at those lifestyle choices, making tweaks and nudges here and there if needed. Be open to having conversations with your GP or practise nurse if you’re not coping with symptoms and require some form of medication and if you do get that appointment make sure you’re prepared – the more information you give them the more they’ve got to work with. Utilise apps as symptom checkers, go on the drink aware website and honestly clock how much alcohol you have a week, for those (like me) who still prefer pen and paper there’s a menopause diary which is free to download off my website, good to do even for a few days to get an idea of what is really going on…there are so many ways you can start to slowly and sustainably tweak your day to day habits.
Basically – get to know your body – including all those bits you don’t really want to think about – find out what’s lacking, what you can work on and what you need a hand with.
So take that holistic…that bio-pyscho-social approach and a bit of common sense never goes amiss either! Remember prevention is sooooo much better than firefighting so get those bodies into good shape before the oestrogen decides to take a dive…focus on bone, heart and cognitive health and help prevent any of those long term symptoms getting in the way of a good quality of life in those post menopausal years.
At home and within the workplace normalise conversations…but have proper conversations, not digital ones via text or email!
It shouldn’t just be about the menopause when it comes to women’s health – you need to capture the attention of younger generations within conversations as well to help prevent them slipping through the net. Basic signs and symptoms becoming alarm bells to go and get checked out. There are many other women’s health concerns everyone needs to be aware of – catching these early is so important.
Getting back to the workplace…
Inappropriate banter should be quashed, with supportive cultures being encouraged, where it becomes the norm for open conversations that result in healthy working environments. Ones which educate, support, develop trust and respect regardless of gender, with inspirational role models at their helm.
Again, as I said earlier, its not rocket science…employers have a duty of care, need to build relationships and develop trust. It should be the norm to provide a supportive, inclusive workplace with reasonable adjustments in place which make sure working conditions don’t exacerbate symptoms…simple practical measures which make any employee feel valued and supported.
There are an incredible number of organisations already on track…I know…I’ve worked with many…so don’t believe the media when they tell you otherwise!
A closing note…
Obviously not every woman wants to talk openly about their personal health there’s most definitely a percentage who just want to ignore this topic and are almost in denial that it’s ever going to happen to them…well it is…whether or not you experience debilitating symptoms being another matter, but for those people I would say, as with anything in life, the more informed you are, the better you can help yourself but, in addition, the more equipped you become to be able to help others should that be needed.
Kindness – being able to give someone even a morsel of understanding and empathy because you have some insight…now that can make the biggest difference to someone’s life and can be a turning point for many.
A short postscript…
I know when is this post going to end…I do occasionally get asked if there is such a thing as a ‘male menopause’. The correct terminology, if such a thing does actually exist, would be andropause or if referring to testosterone deficiency then ‘late-on-set hypogonadism’ . Have a quick read through this NHS link : https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/male-menopause/ which explains everything really well…as I was discussing with some gentlemen the other day, in a nutshell, symptoms if experienced are more than likely as a result of lifestyle factors and maybe problems with mental health rather than with hormones.
A note of thanks…
To all the fabulous organisations I’ve worked with to date – you’ve all been tremendous to work with and on no occasion have I ever experienced a lack of inclusiveness or openness but I probably owe you all an apology! I’m never quite up to speed with social media, being too busy educating so, fall short on making regular announcements and blowing your trumpets! You all know who you are though and your staff I’m sure will be more than aware of your fabulous attitude and support. I look forward to working with many more of you, thank you.
Women’s Health concern: www.womens-health-concern.org : fact sheets
Menopause Matters: www.menopausematters.co.uk
Jackie Lynch/Nutritionist: www.well-well-well.co.uk
Dr Claire Macaulay: The Pleasure Possibility
Squeezy app: www.squeezyapp.com : pelvic floor
Daisy Network: www.daisynetwork.org: POI
The Eve Appeal: www.eveappeal.org.uk: 5 gynae cancers
Endometriosis UK: www.endometriosis-uk.org
CBT : Living Well Through The Menopause by Myra Hunter and Melanie Smith & Managing Hot flushes and Night sweats; A cognitive behavioural self-help guide to the Menopause
Women’s Health Plan: https://www.gov.scot/news/womens-health-plan/
NHS inform: www.nhsinform.scot/menopause
Men…Let’s Talk Menopause book : https://tinyurl.com/2p9y3vhv
Health care professionals & anyone else who fancies a gander:
BMS: www.thebms.org.uk : publications scroll to tools for clinicians
NICE guidelines : www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23
Pelvic Roar: https://www.pelvicroar.org
There are a myriad of different products out there which can help to ease the impact of symptoms not only for the person you’re concerned about but can be beneficial to you too, for example, natural, temperature regulating wool duvets which do away with the need for either separate or partner duvets https://www.thewoolroom.com/blog/5-reasons-to-buy-wool-bedding/ …consider investing in a few items of clothing made with breathable & natural fibres especially when exercising or thinking about nightware https://www.becomeclothing.com/pages/how-it-works
BAM clothing: https://tinyurl.com/ve7pmzwp
Don’t forget those genitourinary symptoms, using a good moisturising lubricant like Sylk can be a good starting point before considering getting vaginal oestrogen prescribed – ask any pelvic health specialist and I guarantee they would recommend everyone be put onto vaginal oestrogen as long as you have no medical contraindications.
N.B: I’m not receiving payment from any of the recommendations above – I know majorly slipping up there but you can be reassured that it’s an unbiased opinion!
Any information is as accurate as possible at time of posting and is for information purposes only. The information and support that Let’s Talk Menopause provides is for your own personal use. It is not intended to replace or substitute the judgement of any medical professional you may come in contact with. You should always seek advice from you healthcare professional regarding a medical condition.