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Supporting the women in your life through menopause

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Menopause happens to every woman. Some may sail through it, others can find it debilitating. Just as every woman is unique, so is their experience of menopause. In this blog post, Sarah Brown shares her top tips to help you support the women in your life through menopause.

Think it’s not going to affect you?

Recently, I was alarmed by my daughter’s response when I asked her if she’d watched Davina McCall’s documentary ‘Sex, Myths and Menopause’. As a bright 24-year-old woman I was not expecting her reply, “Why would I need to know about that?”

As a perimenopausal woman, you can only imagine my response. I eventually peeled myself from the ceiling, put all the sharp objects away and sat down for a chat.

She openly admitted it wasn’t something on her radar. She knew it would happen to her eventually but hadn’t considered the women in her life and how it affects each of them now.

And I’m guessing my daughter is not alone.

If you have a woman in your life - a sister, mother, aunt, wife, partner, colleague or boss - read on, because they may need your support.

What is menopause?

Menopause is a woman’s final menstrual period. It’s a normal and healthy part of ageing. A woman’s had her menopause if she’s had no period for 12 months. For most women, this happens between 45-55 but can happen earlier or later.

As we know from our puberty years, everyone is different. 

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause means ‘menopause in transition’. It’s the time leading up to the complete cessation of periods. This usually lasts around four years but can be anywhere from two to eight years. Many women don’t realise they’re in this transition and don’t understand what’s happening to them.

Which to be honest is where I was. I sometimes felt like I was going mad and questioned whether I was depressed. Thanks to the Balance app by Louise Newson, I realised I wasn’t. I referred myself to my GP where I eventually got the help I needed. I’m now the proud owner of the ‘happy gel’ also known as Oestrogen.

The symptoms are basically the same as with menopause. Hot flushes, sleep problems, reduced sex drive, low mood, anxiety and just not feeling like yourself. Some people experience things like brain fog and difficulty concentrating.

With perimenopause though, symptoms can come and go. Your periods may become irregular for a few months, then return to normal for a bit. This is why we sometimes question ourselves.

So just like menopause, perimenopause can have a significant impact.

What do the figures say?

13 million women in the UK are living with menopause.

80% of women have symptoms, yet the majority of us don’t talk about it. Some of my friends still struggle to say the words ‘vagina’ and ‘periods’, giving them other names/phrases such as ‘flower’ and ‘the Russians are here’.

Yes, you read that right.

You can imagine the look on my face the first time that was said to me! We need to lose our Britishness and start to open up about what’s happening to us and our bodies, with the confidence we’ll be supported. 

4.5 million of us are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace.

90% of women are adversely affected at work and 70% of us don’t feel supported.

So what can you do to help?

How can you support the women in your life?

  1. Educate yourself and others. There are lots of great websites and resources out there, so there really is no excuse. One of my favourites is from Dr Louise Newson. Another great tip from my GP was to type EASY into a search engine and it brings up all the HRT prescriptions.
  2. Be curious. Ask questions and talk openly. My partner is slowly tuning in and will say, “Talk to me, what’s going on?” This helps me stop and evaluate and sometimes, not always, rationalise. He’s also learnt when to walk away.
  3. Listen -  and when I say listen, I mean be in the room. Listen to understand and to empathise. One of my favourite clips on empathy is from Brene Brown. Listening is one of the major skills of building trust in any relationship.
  4. Have fun about it. At Laughology, we know humour and laughter are great at giving us different perspectives. Just make sure it’s appropriate and it’s not at her expense. Here’s a great clip from Sandra Shamas.
  5. Encourage a healthy lifestyle and support her to take time out.
  6. At work, think about how flexible working or WFH may help. Provide access to the right equipment such as suitable chairs, fan, window or air con, as well as a quiet room to sit in and a bathroom nearby.
  7. Promote health and wellbeing days to share menopause advice and guidance. Share information with everyone, not just in the ladies’ loos on the back of the toilet doors.
  8. Arrange for training to raise awareness too - our menopause awareness workshop can help.

 

The menopause affects us all. Let’s talk, learn, laugh and do something about it together.

If you would like further tips to support someone you know going through menopause, why not attend our FREE menopause webinar, ‘Vagina is Not a Dirty Word!’

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