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The Menopause Café Movement: creating spaces for conversations about menopause

October 18, 2019

 

 

 

On World Menopause Day 2016, the Menopause Café movement had yet to be born. Spring forward to 18th October 2019 and there will have been over 300 Menopause Café events. What started in Perth has become both a national and international movement with events in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as Ireland and Canada. 

 

 

Menopause Café is the brainchild of counsellor Rachel Weiss. After watching Kirsty Wark’s BBC Programme ‘Menopause and me’, it occurred to Rachel that she was not prepared for this inevitable life event, and possibly the reason why it wasn’t a topic that came up in conversation with family, friends or within the workplace.

 

 

And so, in early 2017, alongside two other local residents, Gail Jack and Lorna Fotheringham, the worlds very first Menopause Café took place in Blend Coffee Lounge in Perth.

 

 

For readers not familiar with the Menopause Café concept. They are ‘pop-up’ events where men and women, young and old gather in a relaxed environment with refreshments and talk about menopause. That’s it. There are no speakers, no experts and no outcomes or products are promoted. 

 

 

The aim is simple, to break the taboo around menopause by creating space for conversations and in by doing so, increase awareness of the impact of menopause on those experiencing it, their friends, families and colleagues. 

 

 

The menopausal transition is said to represent a ‘window of vulnerability’ for women. Hot flushes and night sweats are well-known symptoms but anxiety, low mood & depression are also prevalent during perimenopause & menopause.

 

 

In addition to fluctuating hormones, life stresses (ageing parents, onset of chronic diseases, empty nest syndrome) can also leave women particularly vulnerable to depression & anxiety during this phase in their lives. Kulkarni noted “the process of menopause can take many years, during which the woman’s quality of life and that of her family may deteriorate irreparably”. The average age women will experience menopause is 51, and the age group for women with the highest suicide rate per 100,000 in the UK is 50-54 (2017 figures, ONS), and that’s a worrying statistic.

 

 

Menopause Café in the Workplace events are becoming increasingly popular with over a dozen universities, 10 NHS Trusts, Companies House in Cardiff, Scottish Government buildings in Edinburgh & Glasgow hosting events, and Glendoick near Dundee was the first Garden Centre to host an event for their staff. In the UK alone there are around 3.5 million women over 50 in the workplace. Of these, 75% report experiencing difficult symptoms associated with the menopausal transition. A recent survey from Forth With Life looking at menopause symptoms at work found, 73% experienced hot flushes, 48% low mood and 43% memory problems. That’s a significant proportion of the workforce.

 

 

 

How are Menopause Café events received?

 

 

The feedback we receive is overwhelmingly positive, and very often humbling -

 “You have started a Menopause Revolution Rachel. A champion for a positive change in the way Society thinks of the menopause; no one should have to struggle anymore or feel alone, as I did.” 

 

 

“The Menopause Café has given me the opportunity to meet people that I do not ordinarily meet, ladies going through their version of the menopause. I am no longer alone in my life-change struggle.”

 

 

Peer-reviewed research carried out by University of Glasgow  found “attending the Menopause Cafés had been extremely beneficial, positively uplifting and influential for changing women’s outlook towards menopause. The data showed that women were encouraged to talk about their experiences which helped them learn from each other, helped them boost their lost self-confidence and embrace the next chapter of their lives without the societal burden”.

 

 

 

What have we learnt?

 

 

When it comes to menopause, there is no ‘one size fits all’, every woman’s menopausal transition will be unique to them. Be kind to yourself, make self-care part of your daily routine, it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. We believe the narrative around menopause is changing, and the third stage in a woman’s life is no longer being exclusively framed as a long, slow decline. It can be more a pleasant plateau with a renewed sense of purpose, greater energy, with more time for community & self.

 

 

We ourselves are testament to that fact, with 5 women (and one man and his dog) on the Steering Group, all at different stages of our own menopausal journeys. We threw ourselves into the Menopause Café movement and have learnt that running a Charity is jolly hard work but tremendously rewarding, life-affirming, and great fun.  

 

 

 

What next?

 

 

Our goals moving forward are threefold; to encourage more men to attend Menopause Café events (around 3% of attendees identify as male). To date, two café events have been hosted by men, a workplace event at Border Force, Glasgow Airport and Menopause Café Walsall hosted by MP Mr Eddie Hughes; to see Menopause Café events across all seven continents, and in the very short term, to deliver the next Menopause Festival aka #FlushFest which returns to Perth on 29th & 30th May 2020 at The Dewars Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published with thanks to Helen x

 

 

References:

1. Weiss RW, Menopause Cafés: It’s good to talk. Maturitas 2019 advance online https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2019.09.002

2. Santoro N, Neal-Perry G. Normal aging and the menopausal transition: what to expect. Interface between psychiatry and gynaecology. Edited by: Soares CN, Warren M. 2009, Basel, Switzerland. Karger 1-17

3. Bromberger JT & Kravitz HM. Mood & menopause: findings from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) over 10 years. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2011 Sep;38(3):609-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.011. Review.

4. Kaufert PA, Gilbert P, Tate R. The Manitoba Project: a re-examination of the link between menopause and depression. Maturitas. 1992 Jan;14(2):143-55.

5. Kulkarni J, Perimenopausal depression – an under-recognised entity. Australian Prescriber. 2018 Dec 41(6) 183-185 

6. Ghani S., Impact of attending Menopause Cafes on Women’s Perception of Menopause in Scotland. MSc Thesis, University of Glasgow Sept, 2019 .

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