Tag Archives: menopause

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Welcome to the Menopause Cafe: ‘Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad’

At a riverside deli in the East Ayrshire village of Catrine, about 20 women – some friends, some strangers – are arriving to spend the evening talking about the menopause.

Amid an eye-popping selection of home baking, organiser Shiona Johnston explains the format for this Menopause Cafe, one of 14 that have taken place across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, since the start of the year alone.

“Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related,” explains Johnston. “A lot are scared about HRT from things they’ve read in the papers. This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The simple guidelines for the event – respecting one another’s confidentiality, not pushing any particular product or service, and encouraging participants to move tables regularly to speak to as many people as possible – were developed by Rachel Weiss, who launched the first Menopause Cafe in June 2017 in her home city of Perth, central Scotland.

“My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’”, says Weiss, “but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

Inspired by the format of Death Cafes, a similar non-profit gathering to encourage people to talk about a previously forbidden subject, Weiss was galvanised into action after watching the Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s very personal documentary on the menopause, Menopause and Me, which screened on BBC One last April. Wark is one of a number of high-profile women, including Lorraine Kelly and Dawn French, who have recently spoken out about their experience of menopausal symptoms.

Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland.


Debra Salem leads a warm-up singalong before the first Menopause Cafe event in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

“Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared,” says Weiss, who runs her own counselling consultancy and, at the age of 51, has yet to go through the menopause. (The average age for a woman living in the UK to reach the menopause is 51, although individuals’ experience varies widely, with most finding that it occurs between 45 and 55, as oestrogen levels decline, periods stop and the body is no longer able to conceive naturally.)

“It’s not just a support group for menopausal women,” Weiss adds, pointing out that attendees have been before, during and beyond the menopause, and included the occasional man wanting to learn how to support his partner. “It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

“But I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful,” Weiss insists. “It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

Indeed, one project for this year, as the Menopause Cafe movement expands and women across the country take up the invitation to host their own events, is to encourage more workplace events, with Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth blazing the trail last month.

Weiss has also planned a series of Saturday afternoon Menopause Festivals (#Flushfest) in Perth, with speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, interspersed with chat and singalongs.

A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland.


A warm-up exercise at the Menopause Cafe in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Back in Catrine, what is noticeable is the amount of laughter in the room, which increases in volume as the evening wears on.

In previous generations, the menopause simply wasn’t spoken about, the women agree, and in that sense it is different from childbirth, which was discussed, if only in private. Alex Gregory, the deli owner, shares stories of passersby sniggering at the poster in her window announcing the event – but also others doing a double-take and returning to jot down the details surreptitiously.

Angela Milby, 47, a shop assistant, has not not yet reached this stage herself but has come with a friend and to “get some tips for later”.

“It’s a taboo subject,” she agrees. “I certainly never heard my own mum speak about it. I do like the idea of talking with other ladies who have been through it.”

Sharon Sym, 47, a Menopause Cafe veteran who runs a dog-walking business, believes that embarrassment holds many women back from seeking the help they need. “I wouldn’t talk about my menopause or ask for help until I hit rock bottom, and it started affecting my family life. But I’ve learned we’re all different and we all experience it differently.”

“I’d become a bit of a recluse, but now I’ve got concert and book festival tickets booked all this year.” Her next date is a book signing with Judi Dench. “And if I sweat, I sweat!”

Workplaces ‘should cater for menopause as they do for pregnancy’

Workplaces should start catering for the menopause in a comparable way to pregnancy, according to one of Britain’s leading women’s health experts.

Myra Hunter, emeritus professor of clinical health psychology at King’s College London said that menopausal symptoms remained a “taboo issue” in many workplaces and, while policies to support pregnant women are now standard, there is still little awareness of the impact that the menopause can have on women who are often at the peak of their career.

“Often there’s a will to address this among managers, but they just don’t know how to talk about it,” said Hunter. “Women want it to be raised if appropriate. They don’t want to be treated as ill, they just want some understanding and awareness of it.”

The call comes as Hunter and colleagues publish the results of one of the first major studies looking at how symptoms such as hot flushes affect women at work. The study, which tracked 124 female employees in the public and private sectors, found that such symptoms could have a significant impact, but that following a simple programme of cognitive behavioural therapy, delivered via a self-help booklet, hugely reduced the degree to which women felt their symptoms were problematic.

The menopause occurs at the age of 51 years, on average, and the way women experience this transition can vary a lot. About 80% of women experience some hot flushes and night sweats and for 20 to 30% these symptoms are severe enough to have a significant impact on quality of life. Some women also report tiredness, “brain fog”, mood swings and loss of confidence. For some women, the transition period lasts just a few years and in others it can last a decade.

There is no strong evidence that the menopause causes women to leave jobs in large numbers or that it has a negative impact on professional performance. “The evidence we’ve got from surveys, it’s subjective, but it suggests that women might over-compensate,” said Hunter.

The trial recruited 124 women who were struggling with their symptoms (the women experienced 56 flushes on average each week). Half the women were provided with a self-help booklet that provided guidance on how to cope with work stress, how to discuss the menopause at work and which challenged negative stereotypes associated with the menopause, such as “being past it”.

The booklet also set women cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) exercises, in which they were asked to write down the thoughts they have during hot flushes, for instance, and then challenge these beliefs.

“If a woman has a hot flush half the anxiety is about how people see her,” said Hunter. “There’s embarrassment and anxiety about being joked about and a big concept is hiding symptoms in fear of being ridiculed.”

“Really, we shouldn’t feel like that and when women verbalise it, it does appear ridiculous,” she added.

Women who were given the booklet reported a noticeable reduction in both their symptoms and how problematic they were. When they were followed up after five months, the number of hot flushes they experienced was reduced by one third, they reported better quality sleep and viewed their symptoms more neutrally. In interviews after the trial, 82% said the intervention had reduced the impact of their symptoms and 37% had spoken about their menopause to their line manager.

Kathy Abernethy, chair of the British Menopause Society and a specialist nurse, welcomed the work, saying that a social shift was underway with people generally becoming more open about discussing the menopause.

This trend, she said, has been partly driven by celebrities who “have decided that it’s not something embarrassing to talk about”. Far more women in their 50s are also in work than in the past. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, the proportion of women aged 50 to 64 with jobs has risen by more than 50% in the past 30 years.

“Women simply want to know workplaces are taking it seriously,” Abernethy added. “Awareness is a key thing. If managers are aware of the menopause it means the whole thing becomes a non-issue, like pregnancy.”

Tina Weaver, CEO of the charity Wellbeing of Women, which funded the research, said the study offered practical and accessible interventions to help women. “It’s alarming so many women suffer from these debilitating symptoms and feel so unsupported during the menopause that they drop out of the work force,” she said. “This natural process has been overlooked and considered a taboo for too long.”

The findings are published in the journal Menopause.

‘Some days I felt like I needed a badge saying “Stand clear: menopausal woman approaching!”’

Angela Bonnett


Angela Bonnett found professional skills that she’d come to take for granted suddenly foundering during the menopause. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Angela Bonnett, 57, had a successful career in finance and by her early 50s was a senior project manager at a well-known financial institution in the City. “I’d spent 30 years being an excellent performer at the top of my tree,” she said.

Five years ago, she entered the menopause and found professional skills that she’d come to take for granted – her razor sharp memory and a cool disposition – suddenly foundering. “I felt all those things were falling away,” Bonnett said.

She experienced hot flushes in meetings, night sweats that disturbed her sleep, sudden mood swings, problems concentrating and irritation. “Everything that you’ve ever read about the menopause seemed to happen to some degree,” she said. “Some days I felt like I needed a badge saying ‘Stand clear: menopausal woman approaching!’”

In work, she noticed herself making careless mistakes, struggling to recall names or conversations she’d had a day earlier – “things that were just alien to me”.

She took detailed notes to prompt her memory and worked harder to compensate for tiredness. She began wearing layered clothes so she could “quickly disrobe” when she was hit by a hot flush in a meeting and took to carrying a fan she had picked up on holiday in Spain.

“Initially I had some reservations that people would know why I’m doing this,” she said. “But in the end I thought, either I’m going to explode or I need to cool down.”

As a rule, Bonnett did not share personal problems at work. “I prefer to keep the two separate,” she said. And the menopause felt like a particularly personal experience. “Whether you want someone to know your periods have stopped – it’s quite core to who you are.”

Angela Bonnett


Bonnett said that having support at work made dealing with the menopause easier. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

However, when she found herself snapping at a colleague – a reaction that was completely out of character – she decided she needed to raise the issue with her manager.

“Previously I’d been quite sensitive in situations at work, but from nowhere there would come a really sharp, nasty response to people that made the whole room gasp,” she recalled.

The lack of an established protocol made raising the issue at work feel potentially awkward. Eventually she emailed her line manager, a man in his mid-30s, with a newspaper article in which a high level lawyer described the challenges she’d faced at work due to menopausal symptoms. “This allowed me to introduce the subject using outside information and explain what I was going through,” she said.

Bonnett says her boss was not unwilling to help, he was simply oblivious. “It was an education for him. He said ‘I had no idea you were going through this’. I said ‘It’s because I’ve been working extra hard to make sure I carry on performing’.”

Once aware of her situation, Bonnett’s manager was understanding and reassured her that she should feel free to come in late or leave earlier, if she needed to. The message was: whatever you need to do to cope, that’s fine.

“Just having that reassurance made it a lot easier,” Bonnett said. “I didn’t need to do any of those things, but knowing he knew was sufficient and removed a lot of the anxiety.”