For women who are entering or going through menopause, be prepared to hit the “share” button. This article is for the husbands, partners, children, parents, and relatives in your life: family support during menopause is important. If you’re a woman who has already been through menopause, you know what we’re talking about. If you don’t fall into this category, it’s time to listen up.
Menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s life. It’s not a disease or something to be cured, feared, or dismissed. Every woman goes through this phase of life in her own way. Some experience very mild symptoms while others feel like their world has turned upside down. Many fall in between.
You can blame the mood swings, hot flashes, irritability, cramps, weight gain, urinary incontinence, crying jags, and dozens of other symptoms on fluctuating hormone levels, but pointing fingers doesn’t help women get through the stages of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Supporting menopausal women can.
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs in three phases: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Perimenopause is the time before a woman’s last menstrual period and when her hormones begin to fluctuate. Menopause is when the last menstrual period has occurred. More specifically, when the ovaries stop releasing mature eggs, the body makes less estrogen and progesterone, and 12 months have passed without a menstrual period. Postmenopause is the time that follows that last period.
Supporting women during menopause
Going through menopause can be challenging for many women. Physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental changes can all be occurring at once. These can be highly personal, so it can be difficult for women to express themselves and to hold it all together.
Research suggests that women who have family support during menopause experience fewer menopausal symptoms. Going through menopause can be an isolating factor in a woman’s life. Even though this life stage is completely normal and experienced by virtually all women, there is still an aura of discomfort and shame around it for both women and their families. Nurturing family support can help erase these feelings.
Tips for family members
Communicate. One critical factor is being able to communicate feelings: women need to be able to talk about what they are experiencing and feeling without being judged, while family members should listen and also ask how they can help the situation. “What can I do to help you right now?” or “Would you like to share how you’re feeling right now?” demonstrates your care and support.
Learn. Educate yourself about all aspects of menopause. It’s a multifaceted phase of life with physical, emotional, mental, and social implications. A better understanding of menopause can help you more easily support the woman in your life.
Offer assistance. The simple act of offering to wash the dishes or stop at the grocery store on the way home can ease her anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed.
Support her health. The physical and emotional changes associated with menopause cause many women to want to work on their health. Working out is much easier when it’s done with a buddy, so offer to join her.
Cultivate laughter. Laughter is always good medicine. Know what makes her laugh and cultivate it. Engage in and find friends, activities, movies, videos, and other opportunities to chuckle.
Facilitate better sleep. Insomnia is a common menopausal symptom. Help her find better ways to get the rest she needs by talking about what she would like to change about the bedroom or perhaps a different bedtime routine.
Practice patience. Mood swings and other emotional responses are common during menopause, but they don’t last forever. If you practice patience during these times, it lets the person know you are supporting her at this time.
Don’t personalize her moods. If she is having a bad day and is upset, angry, or anxious, listen to her but don’t internalize her emotions.
Reassure her. The physical changes that occur during menopause can be highly disturbing to women. Weight gain, urinary incontinence, skin changes, fatigue, and hot flashes, for example, can make women lose their self-confidence and question their self-worth and value. Frequent words of encouragement and recognition of their value are important during this time.
Menopause affects every woman differently. Some merely need periodic reassurances that they are okay while others ride an emotional rollercoaster and require more all-round support. All women in menopause need patience, laughter, understanding, and support and the reminder that their current situation is going to pass.