Menopause for Men – Ruth Devlin’s whistle stop tour of the menopause…

Menopause for Men – Ruth Devlin’s whistle stop tour of the menopause…

Are the men in your life utterly clueless when it comes to menopause matters? Wish they could walk a day in your shoes (without a fan)? Share Ruth Devlin’s funny guide and help the chaps close to you become more use than that proverbial chocolate fire guard!

Do you find it increasingly hard to try and get across to your partner how you really feel, without sounding as though you’re going off your trolley? Ever get the feeling your partner is desperate to help but just doesn’t know how? Is it driving you both absolutely bonkers? If you're a woman, pass this on… and if you’re a man keep reading. And if you’re feeling particularly brave, perhaps send on to fellow male friends who will find it useful!

So… Men… Let’s Talk Menopause!

Let’s get one thing clear… this is all completely normal and you are most definitely not alone. There are reams of men up and down the country, and globally, wondering what on earth is going on, trying to come to terms with this supposed new woman in their lives!

I’ve talked to many men who are desperate to help, are continually confused by the Jekyll and Hyde characters they are now living or working with and wonder when, or indeed will, everything go back to normal. This doesn’t just include wives and partners, it might be your mum, your sister or your work colleague… there’s a lot of women out there… 80% of whom will suffer to some degree from menopausal symptoms. I know, lucky old 20%!

It’s about time it became the norm to talk about this, don’t you think?

It tends not to be the first topic which comes to mind when out for a few drinks on a Saturday night!

Brace yourselves… there are over 30 symptoms which women can potentially suffer from… ‘can’ being the operative word here. One of the hardest things to get your head around are the differing experiences women can have, with some women sailing through this time of their lives without even batting an eyelid; pelvic floors and libidos intact (lucky!)

Alternatively, other women can have a very different experience, suffering numerous symptoms which can have a huge impact on their lives and for anyone within the near vicinity… if this is the case deep breath and read on!

A wee tip…

Never, and I mean never, say, “Oh it must be your hormones…”, “Oh, it’s definitely that time of the month again…” or “Oh, go and take a chill pill…”.

These comments are like a red rag to a bull.

Do, however become a model listener, learn to have the patience of a Saint and don’t ever think you have time to have any form of man flu! Go and invest in some fleecy PJs… night sweats require arctic conditions, a woolly hat to hand might be an idea too. And become an expert in creating a calming atmosphere whenever possible – scented candles are a must… piped whale music… ok might be a step too far!

Let’s get a few facts straight…

  • Women have no control as to how this will affect them, believe me, it’s as much of a shock to them as it is to you. All these strange and difficult symptoms are down to oestrogen deficiency - hormone levels are fluctuating all over the place. The symptoms either slowly evolving (sneaky), or due to other health issues – wham bam – women can be thrown in at the deep end and suffer really intense symptoms.
  • It’s easier to get to grips with and to try and understand all those symptoms if they are split into three categories: physical, psychological and genitourinary (reproductive and urinary to you and me). There are a few rare symptoms and a few long term symptoms to be aware of as well. You can find a list summarising the most common symptoms here.
  • The most symptomatic phase of the menopause is called the perimenopause – that “glorious” transitional phase from the reproductive phase in a woman’s life to the non-reproductive phase, but still fertile – careful!
  • Women can only be classed as menopausal/postmenopausal when they have had 12 continuous months of no bleeding, symptoms should be dissipating and life starting to calm down… honest! Careful though, ‘she’ still could be fertile, so make sure contraception is covered for up to two years if 51yrs and under and for one year if over 51years… well, it’s up to you, but if you don’t want to hear the pitter patter of tiny feet…

And now for some answers to questions many men ask…

Q : How long does it last?

A : How long is a piece of string…? The average is between four and ten years but, each woman will experience the menopause in very different ways, with symptoms lasting for different lengths of time and with differing degrees of intensity of those symptoms. Which is why all women should have the luxury of receiving holistic and individualised treatment… I know, realistically for swathes of women out there this just isn’t going to happen, so the better informed we all are and the more you guys can help the better.

Q : Will she return to normal?

A : Is the Pope a Catholic?…Of course she will! I’m not being flippant here, every woman will take different lengths of time to recover but gradually her body will adjust to the changing levels of hormones, how she helps her body adjust is another matter. The more information taken on board, the more she understands what is happening to her and how she can help herself through lifestyle choices, diet and exercise, can help enormously. The sooner any woman does this the better.

Q : Why, how and when can women develop symptoms?

A : Menopause can either be:

- Spontaneous, so developing naturally

- Surgically induced following, for example, having a hysterectomy (symptoms tend to arrive suddenly and be more intense

- Following certain treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy (iatrogenic)

Q: What are the best ways to help?

Ok, so we’ve established already that you are currently morphing into (if not already) the most patient man on the planet, providing oceans of TLC and plenty of opportunities for much needed R&R (yes, rest and relaxation!) The less stressed and more relaxed women are, the less intense their symptoms will be. But what else can you do to help?

Get healthier together

Any menopause specialist will first and foremost have a really good look at lifestyle choices, diets and exercise levels… you too could benefit… just saying! As with any health condition the better shape your body is in physically and mentally the better you will cope. Ah I know you’re thinking to yourself here we go again, someone banging on about lifestyle and exercise but a healthy, well nourished, exercised woman is going to be able to manage her symptoms a lot better than someone who skips meals, is overweight and doesn’t exercise… harsh but true!

It’s easier to make healthy choices if you don’t feel like you’re going it alone., so support your partner by making healthy choices where you can. I’m not talking about faddy diets or drastic fasting, instead tweak and nudge diets and exercise in different directions. That means setting realistic targets, eating balanced nutritional meals, and taking plenty of exercise. She will find it helps with many of the symptoms… physical, psychological and genitourinary. And you’ll hopefully earn some brownie points for your good work!

What about alcohol?

I’m not going to tell anyone to become teetotal, everyone needs a wee tipple now and then but alcohol exacerbates symptoms, making hot flushes more intense, affects sleep patterns… I could go on… and binge drinking is a big no. When the government regulations recommends 14 units per week it doesn’t mean in a oner!

Q : Is there a blood test which confirms if women are menopausal?

A : There is a blood test called an FSH test (follicle stimulating hormone test) but, this is only useful for anyone who is prematurely menopausal and shouldn’t be done routinely, everyone’s hormones are fluctuating so much it makes it pretty inaccurate and ends up being a waste of time, waste of NHS money and gives a false reading for women. Diagnosis should be done from symptoms alone…and please don’t get swept into paying for saliva tests privately, a waste of time too, take her for a weekend away instead!

Q : Is there a magic pill to make everything go back to normal?

There are no magic pills or miracle cures… sorry… but certain medications can help accompanied with all the lifestyle advice.

For some women tweaking and nudging lifestyle choices will be enough to cope with their symptoms but if you’re anything like me you can be the fittest flea on the planet, be eating a veritable rainbow of food at every meal time, only drink decaffeinated coffee, are nearly teetotal (ok, slight white lie), go to pilates and yoga twice a week, have been on a two week sabbatical with the Tibetan Buddhist monks to master the art of meditation, your bedroom resembles the north pole and yet you still can’t knock the symptoms on the head. Which is why one of the commonest questions is…

Q : When should HRT be considered?

A : When you notice symptoms start to affect the quality of your partners life and others around you…benefits outweigh the risks…it definitely works…but a prescription is only as good as the prescriber, so see someone who knows what they are talking about…for more detailed information see the websites below…this topic could take up a whole blog post!

Important note: you are more likely to get cancer from excessive alcohol intake or by being overweight than by taking HRT. Hence banging on continually about lifestyle choices…

If the whole idea of taking hormones or any form of medication for that matter just doesn’t float her boat then there are reams of alternative remedies out there that can genuinely help. A word of caution - they too have their side effects, aren’t regulated as stringently as prescribable medicines so always ask advice from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Q: What about alternative therapies – do they work?

A : Fabulous - take the positive effects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - learning simple CBT exercises can help not only psychological symptoms but can also help to reduce the intensity and frequency of other symptoms like hot flushes. An excellent book to buy is ‘Managing Hot Flushes and Night Sweats’ by Myra Hunter and Melanie Smith - it’s a very good self help guide to CBT.

Ah, so much information to try and get across, please see the list of websites I would recommend at the end of this post for more detailed info, plus have a gander at a few of the blog posts on my website letstalkmenopause.co.uk which go into specific symptoms in more detail. The fact that you are reading this and are bothered enough to help is fabulous, whoever the woman in question is she is very lucky that you care…that very fact helps any menopausal woman enormously.

I am a tad passionate about this topic so found myself writing a book for you guys – don’t worry it’s not a great tomb, more a pocket sized handy guide packed with info – hopefully out soon …will keep you posted.

About Ruth Devlin

After experiencing an array of perimenopausal symptoms herself and realising the lack of consistent information available at the time, Registered Nurse Ruth Devlin decided things had to change. Teaming up with like-minded women from healthcare backgrounds, she co-founded Let’s Talk Menopause to raise awareness about the menopause, demystifying it and most importantly, providing easy access to information and support. She is a member of the British Menopause Society and has liaised with menopause specialists to establish what women really want, and need, to know about the menopause. It’s no surprise, then, that she has appeared on everything from Radio 4s Woman’s Hour to the BBC Insider’s Guide to the Menopause documentary with Kirsty Wark.

Read Ruth’s full biography here

You might also be interested in:

Relationships at menopause – Relate guide

Symptom Tracker – you can try it on her behalf

Other websites I would recommend for more detailed information…

Women’s Health Concern: www.womens-health-concern.org - excellent factsheets

Menopause Matters: www.menopausematters.co.uk - covers all aspects of the menopause and runs a very useful magazine which you can subscribe to.

Let’s Talk Menopause: www.letstalkmenopause.co.uk - useful informative blog posts relating to different symptoms

Daisy Network: www.daisynetwork.org.uk - essential website for anyone who is prematurely menopausal.

For any health professional : www.thebms.org.uk – the essential resource, go to publications and scroll down to tools for clinicians, great summarised resources.

Ruth Devlin

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