One in three middle-aged men consider the female menopause as negatively impacting on their relationships, citing their partner's moodiness, irritability, loss of libido and sexual problems as major contributing factors. This is according to recent national research involving more than 200 men, which examined their experience, understanding of and attitude towards menopause and their partners, aged 45 to 59.
Of those respondents (142) who had experienced their partner's menopause, almost 50 per cent of men said it had impacted negatively on their sex life, attributing this to a loss of libido and interest in sex. While some said sex had become less frequent or more variable, others attributed sexual problems to their partner's mood.
According to Dr Edith Weisberg, Director of Research at Family Planning NSW and Senior Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Sydney, "This informative research is helping to put men back into the term 'men'opause. For years we have documented women's knowledge, experience and attitude towards menopause and associated health issues. These new findings are helping to paint a picture of the male experience of the female menopause, although some of the problems perceived by men may not be exclusively due to the menopause."
When it comes to best managing the menopause and relationships, younger men outshine their older counterparts. "Ninety per cent of men aged 45 to 49 discussed the topic in detail with their partners, in contrast to only 50 per cent of men aged 65 to 69. In fact, with each generation, from 40 to 70 years, there is almost a 20 per cent increase in the number of men who have not discussed the subject with their partners," Dr Weisberg said.
When raised as an issue, menopausal topics of discussion range from symptoms - hot flushes, mood swings and behavioural changes - to management and treatment options, including Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
When asked about what type of symptoms or health issues their partners had experienced since the age of 45, 70 per cent cited mood swings, 76 per cent hot flushes and 45 per cent difficulty sleeping. However the respondents' knowledge of HRT as a treatment option proved lacking. "More than half of the respondents had no understanding of the term whatsoever. In fact, one misinformed, racing car-obsessed respondent thought HRT stood for Holden Racing Team!", said Dr Weisberg.
The research shows that men tend to better understand HRT when communicating with their partner and when their partner's form of medication is more apparent, in the case of a skin patch. Among those who appeared to be more familiar with HRT, 71 per cent of their partners were using a skin patch. "Because skin patches are visible, this suggests that they may inadvertently prompt discussion about menopause," said Dr Weisberg.
Former Miss World, Belinda Green, 49, who uses a skin patch to manage her menopausal symptoms and guard against osteoporosis, is delighted with this result. "Apart from being simple to use and offering safe and effective symptom control, this is yet another benefit of patches over pills and something which I have certainly never given any thought to."
When quizzed about what type of medication, if any, their partners were taking to control their menopausal symptoms, nearly one in two men said their partner had used some form of treatment to control her menopausal symptoms - either prescription or alternative therapy. Thirty-nine per cent said their partner was using some form of prescription medication in the form of a patch or tablet.
Yet, despite some of their shortcomings in relation to their knowledge about the female menopause, 77 per cent of male respondents were keen for more information to be made available. Younger men (69 per cent aged 45 to 49) and those with pre-menopausal partners (67 per cent) were particularly keen to learn more. Also, those who felt their partner's menopause had impacted negatively upon their relationship (36 per cent) also expressed interest in obtaining further information.
Men can visit www.pillfreehrt.com
to obtain additional information from a male perspective about menopause and how to help their partners through the change of life.