In the United States, most adult men are married. As of the year 2019, 53 percent of adults ages 30-34 were married, followed by 62.5 percent between ages 35-39, 66.1 percent aged 40-44, and 65.6 percent between 45-49 years old. This means that many men are married to women who are likely perimenopausal, as female hormones can start their decline from the mid-30s onward.
We are seeing an increase in coverage about menopause and perimenopause. From across the pond, the UK government is going to lower the cost of HRT, Davina McCall is launching a call for more workplace protections for women going through menopause, and a widower is now calling upon all men to be mindful of the mental health implications “the change” can introduce, after losing his wife to suicide.
And even singer and ‘80s chart-topper Rod Stewart is speaking out, saying that if men learned more about menopause, their marriages would survive.
Here, in the States, we’re seeing slightly more traction about perimenopause and menopause, with celebrities like actress Tracee Ellis Ross going public about perimenopause and former supermodel Paulina Porizkova almost baring it all in recounting her menopausal journey. Such coverage should help amplify the voices about perimenopause and menopause that are growing louder, larger and looming over conversations and dialogues about women’s health. And, it is.
Countless online groups and communities are each brimming with tens of thousands of women in search of answers, explanations and solutions for unmanaged and mismanaged symptoms. They are seeking recommendations for doctors and providers. They are leaning on each other for emotional and moral support. They are sharing lifestyle regimens and supplements taken.
But what is missing from this percolating brew of a perimenopausal uprising? The voices of men.
For months, I’ve mentioned to my husband that the treatment of women entering perimenopause and in the throes of menopause would be an absolute game-changer, only if more men got up to speed and spoke out about how it affected – or could affect – the women in their lives. So much would change: Industry would have to adjust. The workplace would re-think what health and wellness really includes. Science would commit to new understandings. Big pharma would develop sustainable solutions that fine-tune hormone replacement therapy beyond its current incarnations – perhaps even one that couples the best of HRT and the best of antidepressants into one seamless pill for the women who need both. There would be fewer suicides of midlife women, fewer midlife divorces and less misunderstanding in general.
If one considers that the average man has not only a wife, but also a mother, aunts, nieces, female cousins, daughters, and friends, co-workers, supervisors, neighbors and acquaintances of the opposite sex, the web of potential influence expands dramatically. So why aren’t men using their gender capital to support women in this phase of life? How can they heighten awareness that will lead to change in policy, medicine, science and daily living?
Let me count the ways.
Create online support groups. There is a major void in the virtual perimenopause landscape – a watering hole for men who need the insight, resources and camaraderie to support not only themselves, but also their wives and girlfriends through this period of change. As they rally together, their voices will coalesce and magnify awareness and the need for more options, both socially and medically.
Propose policy changes. Men are overrepresented in government and business at all levels; as such, they have the numbers and representation to drive serious conversations about policies in the workplace, government (and related programs) and the educational system about perimenopause and menopause. Women are not necessarily seeking special accommodations, but they are interested in wellness programs and workplace-sponsored resources that provide education and advocacy, as well as insurance plans that cover treatments like HRT.
Speak with their primary care physicians about aging. Men go to the doctors, too, albeit usually less frequently. After all, they are human beings who get physicals and other routine checkups. Even though it might not be on the agenda of a typical office visit, men can ask their primary care, internal medicine and family medicine physicians what kind of menopausal medicine options they offer to patients. You know, asking for a friend? Or, if that’s too direct for comfort, they can ask about getting their own testosterone levels checked as a gateway for more conversation. Such inquiries could heighten the awareness and pique the curiosity of doctors, one by one, perhaps eventually creating a groundswell of expanded understanding to serve their women patients.
Talk to their guy friends. Most married men are friends with fellow married men, who have wives of a certain age. Though men are comfortable talking shop about sports, current events, music and celebrities, they tend to tread lightly when it comes to more personal matters. It will take some brave souls to bring up the topic of perimenopause among a crew of cronies, but whomever does will likely be surprised by the shared observations and experiences they’re having with their wives, fiancées or girlfriends.
Start a campaign. Most of the awareness about perimenopause and menopause is being done by women, predictably so. The few male voices in this space tend to be anti-aging, reproductive and naturopathic doctors who have some monetary skin in the game. If men launched a campaign to raise awareness, it would certainly stand out if for no reason other than the gender of those behind it.
What are you ideas for how men can become part of the change? Are the men in your lives supporting you during this time? If so, how?
The Real Peri Meno is devoted to all things perimenopause - the science, treatments, care, understanding, personal experiences, relationships, culture and more. The brain child of Keisha D. Edwards, The Real Peri Meno developed out of her own shock-and-awe experience with perimenopause and navigating the disjointed U.S. medical system in search of answers, support and relief.
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