Finally, menopause is a hot topic in the media, a hushed subject that our grandmothers referred to as “the change,” which was once such a taboo subject, even among women, that we had to get through it intact and alone. Although written for the partner, this article applies equally to colleagues, family, and friends of the individual undergoing the change. 

There are approximately 13 million peri- or post-menopausal women in the UK, and this life transition affects not only the woman but also her partner, family, friends, and work colleagues. Menopause frequently occurs while women are dealing with other life changes, such as caring for teenagers, elderly parents, working, and attempting to maintain their relationship with their partner. All these factors, combined with the physical and emotional ups and downs of menopause, can make for a very stressful time.

The emotional impact of menopause

Menopause and its emotional impact should not be underestimated; unfortunately, the highest suicide rate in women occurs between the ages of 45 and 53. A 2021 report into female suicide found deaths of menopausal-age women have risen by six percent over the last 20 years. Over 60% of divorces in the UK are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of menopause, as well as the impact it has on your partner physically, emotionally, and mentally, can help you understand that this is a transitional period that will pass, and there are many ways you can assist your partner in navigating it.

So, let’s start by explaining what menopause actually is and what is happening to a woman’s body.

So, what exactly is ‘menopause’?

Menopause is a natural part of the female reproductive cycle. The term literally means the end of menstrual periods, but in common usage, it refers to the transition from regular menstrual periods to irregular periods, and eventually to a point where the periods stop. Menstrual bleeding ceases when the levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall to a level that does not stimulate the womb lining (endometrium) to become rich in blood and thus does not bleed.

As women enter menopause, they may experience up to 30 symptoms, the most common of which are hot flushes, sweats, tiredness, poor memory, concentration problems, vaginal dryness, and bladder issues, as well as symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

When does it start?

Menopause occurs at an average age of 51 years in the UK, with a range of 45 to 55 years. Menopause is defined as ‘Early Menopause’ if it begins between the ages of 40 and 45, and ‘Premature Menopause’ if it begins before the age of 40. A woman is considered “Post-Menopausal” 12 months after her last period.

If you’ve heard the term ‘Peri-Menopausal,’ it refers to the time when a woman’s body is preparing for menopause and the first year after, which can last months or even years.

Let’s look at some of the most common symptoms!

Almost three-quarters of women going through menopause will experience symptoms, some of which are listed below.

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Sleeping problems
  • Headaches
  • Joint aches
  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • Sore or tender breasts
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Sexual problems, such as vaginal dryness and loss of libido
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Poor memory and difficulty in concentrating

Many of these ‘symptoms’ are caused by hormonal changes as well as sleep deprivation, with night sweats being the most notorious culprit.

You can find out more about menopause symptoms on the NHS website by clicking here.

What can you do to help?

First and foremost, being patient and tolerant will go a long way; your partner will be struggling not only with some of the common symptoms, but also with adjusting to the next stage of her life and the ageing process. There are some advantages, such as no more periods and no need to worry about contraception. This transitional period can energise many women, causing them to pursue new interests and have a greater zest for life.

Understanding why your partner behaves differently, from extreme mood swings to forgetfulness, low libido, and fatigue, will assist you both in navigating the menopause together. Listening to and supporting your partner’s needs will be invaluable during this stressful time. And remember it doesn’t last for ever and will pass.

Here are some practical tips that you can do to help your partner

  • If your partner is experiencing night sweats and is exhausted, offer to get a glass of cold water and offer to change the bedding.
  • If she is struggling with sleeping (if you snore for example) then if you have a spare room offer to sleep in it for the night so she can try and get some uninterrupted sleep.
  • Menopause symptoms can be eased by leading an active, healthy lifestyle. Encourage your partner to go for a walk, swim, or try a yoga class. Even better, get active together!

Further information on the menopause  

You can also visit these websites which have some more information on supporting someone through menopause.

The impact of menopause on mental health white arrow
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