How can I support my partner through the menopause transition?
Firstly, knowledge is key. If you understand what changes are happening and how these changes can affect your partner then it will be easier to empathise with her. Burying your head in the sand and hoping it might go away will only make matters worse, it won’t just go away. The symptoms of menopause can last many years. What affects her will ultimately affect you and your relationship.
Read this on ‘what men need to know’ to give you some insight into what your partner might be experiencing. The menopause transition can be a very difficult time for many women, lots of changes are happening that they have no control over and women can struggle in many aspects of their lives.
Imagine if you hadn’t slept for most of the night, you kept waking up because your body felt it was on fire, and you had to change night clothes because they were soaking wet. The next day you had to get up for work, and you couldn’t concentrate because of the brain fog and lack of sleep. You started to feel anxious, had palpitations in your chest and to top it off, you had a hot flush. Your face was burning red with sweat, and you started to cry.
This can be a daily occurrence for some women. Can you imagine how exhausting it could be? Add in teenagers, elderly relatives, and life’s general stresses and you have a recipe for a woman not being able to cope with daily life.
So how can you help?
Ask if she needs help. Let her know that you’ll be there to listen as you know you can’t fix this. Encouraging her to talk to her friends can help as they may be experiencing menopause symptoms as well. Get her to talk to her GP or a menopause expert about HRT. HRT can help with a lot of menopause symptoms both physically and psychologically. Almost all women can take it and it is generally considered safe. Taking HRT as close to the menopause as possible has many benefits, as it can protect the heart, the bones, and more research is emerging on the benefits on the brain.
Give her time and space, she may want to have some time alone from everyone, to relax, or to just simply have a bath. There’s lots of advice for women about relaxation and practicing mindfulness and yoga to help with menopausal symptoms, especially for anxiety, stress, and hot flushes. It might be worth encouraging her to participate, and telling her to spend some time doing this whilst you take over the household chores, etc.
Sex is an issue you may need to talk about sensitively. Her libido probably isn’t what it was so she won’t be interested in having sex as much and might find it harder to become sexually aroused. A lot of women suffer from vaginal dryness too so having intercourse can be extremely painful and some women can bleed. Being patient and making intimate moments more special can help. Ask her if she’s feeling more tender and acknowledge that this must be difficult for her. There are lots of good intimate lubricants on the market which can make intercourse easier. She probably will continue to want to have a sex life, but it will most likely be different than before.
It's really important to stay healthy together. When a woman stops producing the hormone oestrogen, it can affect every part of her body, especially the bones and the heart. Try and eat healthy and well-balanced meals together. Include meals rich in calcium and Vitamin D for bone health and low in saturated fat to help keep the heart healthy. It is important to maintain a healthy body weight and undertake regular exercise. Taking a brisk walk with your partner every day is an easy way to keep fit and keep bones strong, and it’s also good for your mental health.
For the lowdown on what men need to know, see here or if you have female colleagues and want to know what you can do to support them, see here.
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