Patient Information: Menopause
Helping Your Partner Through Menopause
An understanding spouse or partner is very important to a woman going through menopause. Going through menopause is much easier when a partner is willing to listen, learn, and care enough to help the woman experiencing the menopause and its many changes.
Why Menopause Happens
Any time after age 40, the ovaries begin to reduce their output of estrogen. The menstrual periods become irregular and finally stop. Estrogen affects important functions in other parts of the body such as temperature regulation, bone formation, protection against heart disease, and stability of mucous membranes of the vagina and urinary system. The decrease in estrogen is responsible for most of the symptoms of menopause. The changes in estrogen levels are more abrupt for the woman who has had her ovaries removed surgically. Symptoms may be experienced shortly after the surgery. Some women adapt easily to these changes of menopause, but most women have one or more of the following symptoms.
The following are commonly reported symptoms:
- Hot flashes/Hot flushes- due to the decrease in estrogen available for temperature regulation.
- Sleep disturbances - generally due to the occurrence of hot flashes causing an interruption in sleep patterns, decreasing periods of restful sleep.
- Mood swings - generally related to loss of sleep. Mood swings can also be related to the many changes that are occurring within the family. Children are leaving home, partners are immersed in their work, decisions are being made as to re-entry into the work place or continuing with a present job.
- Vaginal dryness - due to the decrease in estrogen causing thinning of the walls of the vagina, loss of elasticity and decrease in vaginal secretions. These changes in the vagina can cause pain during intercourse and can make a woman more susceptible to vaginal infections.
- Risk for osteoporosis - Estrogen plays an important role in prevention of osteoporosis or weakening of the bone. Over time, this weakening can result in fractures - most commonly in the spine, hip and wrist.
- Changes in other body structures - Decreased estrogen, over time, also leads to the loss of elasticity in other tissues, muscles and ligaments. A loss of muscle tone of the urethra may cause some women to loose urine when they sneeze, cough or laugh. Breasts may change in appearance. These changes may be very difficult for the woman to deal with in a positive manner.
Ways to Help
Many women benefit from a supportive spouse or partner. Understanding the physical causes of the changes that are taking place for the women is a step towards support. Other ways to help include:
Mutual love, caring, and communication are necessary to manage the adjustments that always need to be made, to a greater or lesser degree, during these transition years. If you need further help, call us at the Menopause Clinic and we would be happy to answer your questions. Our phone number is (319)-356-3146.
- Encouraging your wife or partner to talk about what she is experiencing. Open communication always promotes understanding between partners.
- Participating in the choice of birth control is helpful. Even after several months without a period, a woman has a 50 - 50 chance of ovulating again. To be really secure the use of birth control should be used for a full year after the last period. There are health reasons for avoiding pregnancy at this time. The possibility of birth defects in babies increases as women get older.
- Understanding the physical reasons for why intercourse may be uncomfortable - even painful. Both men and women may find that sexual response isn't as quickly achieved as it may have been. Foreplay may need to be longer. Lubricating with contraceptive-type jelly or a water-based jelly may be helpful. Face creams or Vaseline should be avoided since they may cause irritation.
- Helping your wife/partner develop healthy behaviors. Eating a balanced diet, limiting caffeine, and reducing one's salt intake are positive approaches to a healthy lifestyle. These activities are also personally helpful. Exercising with each other and getting enough rest are helpful ideas to reduce stress and improve one's mood.
- Some women may need help in deciding if hormone replacement is the right choice for them. Having a partner help them weigh the pros and cons of this therapy is helpful. Today, more and more doctors are prescribing hormone replacement because of its ability to reduce physical changes including hot flashes/hot flushes, vaginal mucous membrane changes, emotional symptoms including depression, sleep loss or changes in sleep, loss of sex drive, and osteoporosis prevention. Understanding the benefits of hormone replacement therapy and knowing the risks are important for both parties - the woman and her partner.
Peer Review Status: Internally
Peer Review Date: 2004