“What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy. “Help” said the horse. This brilliant quote from Charles Mackesy sums up what many of us women need during menopause – but how can our partners, family and friends help if they don’t understand?
This question inspired my Man’s Guide to a Woman’s Menopause.
What is Menopause?
So first up, what even is menopause???
Technically menopause only lasts for 1 day – that day is when a woman has had no periods for 12 consecutive months*; and this can’t be explained by any other reason.
*in the case of early menopause (complete cessation of periods before age 45, this is extended to 24 months)
So really what we’re interested in are the years before and after that date.
The years leading up to that date, where sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone are becoming erratic and declining over time, are referred to as perimenopause.
The years after that date are know as post-menopause.
For simplicity though, I’ll refer to menopause covering all these phases.
Why is she being so unreasonable, erratic & unpleasant?
How our partners perceive us as we navigate this internal, hormonal transition may be very different to how we feel, simply because they don’t understand what’s going on.
It’s easy to look at things like being snappy, moody, disinterested in sex and assume a woman is just being a mardy so-and-so.
And some of the time, a woman may not be aware herself of what’s making her feel as she is – which can feel very scary.
The list on the right-hand side of the picture above are some of the phrases my clients have used over the last decade to explain how they’re actually feeling, despite the “brave face” they’re putting on for the world.
What’s actually going on?
Can you imagine going through puberty whilst having to hold a job down, keep a house straight and look after a family….it’s a pretty tall order isn’t it really.
This is essentially what perimenopause in particular can feel like for some women.
Estrogen has over 300 identified uses within the body and brain – so there’s no wonder a woman can feel “out of sorts” when levels of this hormone are fluctuating widely from day-to-day, and declining over time.
Bone health and heart health are 2 major areas that are impacted by menopause. And the potential effects a woman can feel go far beyond this.
Is it all doom and gloom?
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some women can breeze through menopause without any issues at all. Others may be aware of a few mild effects.
For some women though, whatever effects they are experiencing can seriously impact
- how they feel within their bodies
- whether they can interact easily within the social and family groups
- how they cope at work
But more good news is that open conversations about menopause are becoming more “normal” and there’s lots we can do to smooth this hormonal journey.
Let’s have a look at a range of effects that can accompany this change in hormone levels.
34 recognised effects of menopause
Many of those things listed could be a sign of a number of things so it’s important to
- look at things in context
- be aware of your life stage and menstrual cycle health
- talk to a medical professional with a special interest in menopause for support where needed.
You might have thought that periods stopping was how you’d know if you were in menopause. Many women are surprised to find that their periods may become:
- more frequent
- emit more clots
- just be all over the place in regularity, intensity and flow
Tracking what’s going on for you across your cycle (however long that is) helps to give you a much clearer insight into what’s happening for you. It also provides a tonne of useful information for talking to medical professionals.
Those items marked with an asterisk(*) are effects that my clients have seen a reduction of through working with me. My coaching includes:
- education and understanding of this life stage and what you’re experiencing
- mindset support
- nutrition tips to suit your lifestyle, energy and preferences
- movement coaching to help you feel stronger, more mobile and ALIVE.
How long does all this last?
I think both men and women desperately want to know ‘when will this all end?’
And perhaps for those looking to manage things proactively – ‘when can I expect this to start?’
The average age for menopause in women in the UK is 51 years old. Perimenopause, the lead up to that time when periods have completely stopped, can last up to 10 years.
And women may continue to experience effects for 5-7 years after menopause. That said I’ve worked with women in their 60s who were still experiencing effects listed above 10 years plus after menopause. With lifestyle, nutrition and movement changes though we managed these unwanted elements away.
Menopause can happen much earlier for some women. If that complete end to periods happens before the age of 40 it is referred to as “premature ovarian insufficiency” – please CLICK HERE for The Daisy Network, a fantastic resource supporting women in their teens, 20s, 30s and early 40s experiencing early menopause
How can men help women with menopause?
I think understanding can go such a long way. Understanding opens the door for communication allowing women and everyone around them to share their experience, get support and simply feel less alone.
How can we get this understanding?
I’ve popped some resources below with further information. Opening opportunities to talk about it are so valuable too.
I offer live online workshops covering a number of areas on menopause for gyms, coaches, workplaces and groups of friends.
Workshops I’ve delivered todate include:
- Menopause effects and how to live through them
- Menopause at work
- Nutrition for menopause
- Exercise for nutrition
- Pelvic floor support through your menopause
As women now live to an average age of 83, ensuring they have the skills and support to make those years fun and active, rather than just surviving is so very important in my view.
Access my free guide to perimenopause simply by clicking here. To talk in more detail about what may help you (or your partner), or to book one of my workshops, please drop me an email to [email protected]
For more information, resources and understanding take a look at the sites I’ve listed below.
And do me a favour please…
…talk about it!
Too many women are suffering in silence, worrying their brain and body is failing them. And this impacts on their whole family and social circle. Talking about it opens the support and lightens the load – more importantly it helps women find their own personal solution to navigating this period of change.
Take care of You.