Menopause discussion: How to talk to your loved ones  

Open, honest communication is key when it comes to menopause discussion.

Knowledge, understanding and discussion around menopause has improved greatly in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go. Three-quarters of British women say they didn’t discuss menopause with their loved ones when growing up, in a study undertaken by menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson.  

Six thousand women were surveyed, and only 1% (60 people) of those recall menopause discussion taking place on a regular basis. A third of respondents said they had/have never discussed menopause with their mothers, and the lack of discussion widens among the generations; 83% have never discussed menopause with a grandmother. 

Couple talkingCredit: Shutterstock / LightField Studios

With more media attention on perimenopause and menopause, and more workplaces bringing in specialist menopause training and policies, the tide is gradually beginning to turn but it’s still a subject few of us feel comfortable talking openly about.  

Starting a menopause discussion can feel overwhelming and intimidating. If you’re experiencing symptoms, it can be difficult to find the right words to express to your partner or children how you’re feeling. Similarly, if you’re living with someone who is struggling with menopause, finding the right way to open a dialogue with them can be tricky.  

We spoke to Newson for more advice about how to broach the subject with different family members.  

Talking to your partner

Find time to sit down together

Barriers to menopause discussion include lack of knowledge, embarrassment, lack of communication, lack of time, and shame. Newson suggests gaining as much knowledge as possible to empower yourself.  

Not only will this make talking about things easier, but it’ll also broaden your own understanding and insight. Symptoms such as loss of libido or irritability can really affect your relationship with your partner, but talking openly and honestly about it will help, especially if you also know how and where to access advice and support.  

“A lack of knowledge about the perimenopause and menopause and poor access to treatments has left women needlessly suffering for decades,” Newson says. “Every day I receive so many messages from those who are struggling to cope and are desperate for answers.” 

To this end, Newson has released a book, The Definitive Guide to the Perimenopause and Menopause, with an in-depth look at hormones and the role they play in the body as well as how perimenopause and menopause can affect relationships, careers and our mental and physical wellbeing.  

The NHS website also has a wealth of information and advice and Healthtalk has a selection of videos made by women talking about their own experiences with issues such as vaginal dryness, changes in periods and emotions around the menopause. These can be useful for understanding how to articulate your own feelings.  

The Menopause Charity, and Menopause Matters are both charities with a range of articles and advice available too.   

Queermenopause has specific help and advice for anyone identifying as LGBTQ+, whilst the Daisy Network is a charity for those dealing with early or premature menopause.  

We lead busy lives, but finding time for an open discussion is key. If you have younger children, try and talk to your partner when they’re in bed or out of the house. Make sure neither of you are pushed for time, and tell them how you’re feeling about having the discussion.  

Explain what support you need from them and be open and willing to listen to their thoughts and opinions in return. Openness and honesty need to be the cornerstone of this discussion. 

Mother and daughterCredit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Talking to adult children

Bridge the generational gap

The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51. It’s an age where some of us might still have young children at home, and some of us might be parents to late teenage or adult children. We are also what’s known as the ‘sandwich generation’ – those who are often juggling full-time work and caring for our own children as well as our parents.  

This can be a stressful period in our lives, especially if coupled with menopause symptoms. But it’s also an opportunity for open discussion with our children and parents, helping to bridge that generational gap.  

“Maybe you already have the kind of relationship with your adult children or grandchildren where no topic is off limits. In that case, you’ve probably had the menopause talk, which is fantastic,” Newson says.  

“But so many families hit a verbal roadblock when it comes to talking about so-called ‘women’s issues’ between the generations. When my mother was going through the menopause during my teenage years, we barely spoke about it, and I think the same is true for many of us growing up. 

“That really is an opportunity missed: a frank chat with female family members can help to prepare the next generation for their own perimenopause and menopause, so if you are a mother or grandmother, you can play a really important role part helping your own children and grandchildren.” 

Talking to your children (and indeed your mother) about your menopause and your experience also helps them in the long term by giving them an idea of when they could expect it to start.  

“Finding out about family menopause history can often (although not always) give your daughters or granddaughters an indication of when they can expect to go through their own menopause, as an earlier menopause can sometimes run in families,” Newson says.  

If we want more awareness and understanding around menopause, then we need to be the catalyst for that change. That means talking to our sons as well as our daughters, bringing them into the conversation so they can better support not only you, but their sisters, friends, and future partners.  

“Plus, it opens up the conversation, so they don’t feel afraid to discuss any physical or psychological symptoms when the time comes,” says Newson. “You don’t have to make it a ‘big’ talk like the birds and the bees, just gently let them know you are there if they ever want to chat.” 

Couple with young childrenCredit: Shutterstock / PeopleImages.com – Yuri A

Talking to younger children

Reassurance is key

You might still have children at home who are of primary school age, or early secondary school. You may feel as though you should put a brave face on, and not discuss the menopause with them. But children are very good at picking up on other people’s emotions, particularly that of someone close to them.  

Although it might be a difficult subject to talk about, Newson recommends having a frank menopause discussion with younger children, too.  

“Whilst it’s a parent’s instinct to want to protect your children from what’s happening, the more you understand, the happier your home life will be,” Newson says.  

“No matter if you have young children or teens, they will likely feel the impact of what you’re going through. Children may feel like they have done something wrong, or they might worry about your health.  It can be a confusing time if they don’t understand why their mother is acting differently and could potentially lead to a change in the behaviour from your child as well,” she points out.  

“Perimenopause-related forgetfulness may make it challenging for you to manage the demanding nature of a family household and all its schedules, not to mention irritability may cause reactive outbursts.” 

This challenging time can be made more difficult if your own children are going through puberty. Fluctuating hormones and emotions across the whole family can lead to turmoil if nothing is being spoken about. Your honesty can in turn encourage your children to talk about how they’re feeling too. 

Make sure your conversation is age-appropriate and keep the language simple. Talking to an eight- year-old will be different to talking to an 18-year-old, so if you have a large age gap between your kids, it might be best to have separate discussions. Reassure them that you’re okay and although you might have some difficult moments, you’re still the same mum. 

Couple chattingCredit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

If you’re the partner of someone going through menopause

Offer support

“If you are the partner of someone going through the menopause, it can be a difficult time for you too,” Newson says. “Patients often tell me their relationships come under strain; they might be struggling with fatigue and physical and psychological symptoms that can leave them shorttempered or wanting to retreat into themselves. 

“It can be confusing and upsetting to see someone you love having a tough time, so look to be a key source of support.” 

It’s true that relationships can face extra pressure during menopause. Some relationships will break down irretrievably during this time. But many will survive just fine, and possibly become stronger as a result.  

As we’ve established, open communication around menopause is key, but this works both ways. You need to be a strong source of support for your partner, letting them know that you’re there to listen and help as necessary. You also need to be honest about how you’re feeling, too. It’s helpful if you do your own research – you might learn information that your partner hasn’t heard about and be able to pass it on.  

“Educate yourself on the basics of the menopause and keep communication channels open. If your partner is struggling and hasn’t yet spoken to a healthcare professional, gently suggest that they do so. You can offer to accompany them to their appointment if they feel they need some moral support.” 

Newson concludes: “Ask what you can do to help and have your own support network, too, for when times are tough – this could be friends or family members. More workplaces are now offering menopause support, which should extend to partners too.” 

Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her

Published:

Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain. Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

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