Could menopause classes help men understand what women suffer as the symptoms ...

Could menopause classes help men understand what women suffer as the symptoms ...
Could menopause classes help men understand what women suffer as the symptoms ...

Thirty four — that’s the number of possible symptoms that experts now recognise as affecting some women as they hit the menopause.

Brain fog, electric shock ‘jolts’, itchiness, loss of libido, joint pain and burning mouth, for example, can occur alongside the better-recognised hot flushes and irritability.

These symptoms typically strike women in their early-50s just as they reach the pinnacle of their careers — and research suggests some find them so difficult to cope with while at work that they leave their jobs.

But while it’s widely accepted that menopausal women need better workplace support, some experts have identified a new way to help: running courses for men.

The idea is this helps to demystify the menopause for men so that they appreciate the biological causes, physical symptoms and psychological changes their female colleagues (and partners) experience, says Julia Frost, a training adviser who runs menopause courses for men at South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Every woman experiences the menopause differently, but common symptoms include hot flushes, low mood or anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, headaches and difficulty sleeping, says Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Every woman experiences the menopause differently, but common symptoms include hot flushes, low mood or anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, headaches and difficulty sleeping, says Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Julia and her colleagues were running sessions for female colleagues. Then she and her manager Sharon Olliver, who were both having hot flushes, ‘felt it important our male colleagues understood the impact of these’.

The menopause is defined as occurring a year after a woman’s last period — around the age of 51 — but symptoms can last for years before and after.

The dramatic drop in the female hormone oestrogen has many effects — but one is that it causes the body’s thermostat, located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, to become more sensitive to changes in temperature — so when your body feels warm it has a hot flush to cool you down.

Hormonal changes at menopause create stress, which aggravates symptoms, producing a vicious circle for some.

A lot of women juggle such symptoms with their careers — menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce, according to the organisation Menopause in the Workplace.

According to an Ipsos Mori study in 2020, although nearly half of women aged 40 to 65 have experienced three or more symptoms while at work, only one in 20 felt their employer offered supportive policies such as ensuring that temperatures in the workplace are suitable, or understanding that menopausal women may experience ‘brain fog’.

The first session at South Tees — in September 2020 — was attended by women. When Julia and Sharon discussed widening it, after questioning male colleagues, they realised men-only sessions held more appeal ‘because men would be embarrassed talking about female matters with women present’.

The first Menopause for Men sessions began in April 2021, with the workshop attracting ten men.

Julia recalls: ‘At first, they were a little awkward, not knowing what to expect — I think they thought they were walking into the lion’s den!

‘But once we got going, they all participated really well. Some had wives,

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