Menopause and relationships: Women hide changes from partners for months

Oct 24, 2020
Most women will experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. Source: Getty (model posed for picture).

We all know that menopause is a normal part of ageing, but new research from the US, carried out by supplements company Life Extension, has found on average, women waited 5.3 months before telling their partner.

This got us thinking whether this was the case for Australian women as well, so we asked readers from the Starts at 60 community for their thoughts and spoke to Brisbane-based obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Gino Pecoraro to find out more.

One reader said they told their partner straight up, saying: “I told him. But [I] was lucky [that] I had none of the usual menopause symptoms. Thank goodness for both of us.”

Meanwhile, another reader said menopause “was never given a name in our house”, explaining: “My system was all over the place in the early stages of menopause. Something that was never given a name in our house. Just a lot of sweating and crazy cycle explained it all. I did take him to see ‘Menopause The Musical’. Gave us BOTH a bit of insight.”

A male reader also weighed in on the discussion, saying: “Can I say something from a man’s view, I have been married twice and knew exactly when both were menopausal because I knew when they did or did not have periods.”

Meanwhile, Dr Pecoraro said the new findings might even come down to the woman simply not making the connection that the changes she’s experiencing are due to menopause or that some partners may not be aware either.

“The nature of menopause is that it’s usually a gradually evolving process,” he told Starts at 60. “Initially, periods may start to come closer together and be heavier than they were before they start to space apart and decrease in volume. Generally speaking, these changes precede hot flushes, vaginal dryness and sleep disturbance but there’s no one singular chain of events that happens to all women.

“It may actually be that many women are simply not expecting menopausal symptoms or aware that [the] changes they are experiencing are due to menopause. Similarly, some partners will be aware of the normal changes that occur with ageing and ask questions about any symptoms while others might not.”

Dr Pecoraro went on to say that open communication in a relationship is best for both parties “especially if it involves intimacy”. He said it’s often hard to hide things like hot flushes from your partner, especially if you share a bed together, saying: “Pulling on and taking off [the] covers during the night can affect your partner’s sleeping patterns.”

“If intercourse is becoming painful because of dryness, [that’s] also a reason to have [a] discussion with your partner,” Dr Pecoraro added.

“It’s hoped that by more doctors giving information to women that the general level of education in the community about healthy ageing and the effects and symptoms [of menopause] will lead to a better quality of life for all.”

Hot flushes, night sweats, moodiness, irritability and tiredness are all symptoms of menopause, which marks the end of a woman’s reproductive life and coincides with the end of her period. Most women will experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 (the average age in Australia is 51).

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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What are your thoughts on this? Did you wait before you told your partner?

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