After a hysterectomy for endometriosis, Diversity & Inclusion consultant, Jackie Handy, 49, didn’t realise what hit her when she entered medically induced menopause. In this, the final Menopause Monologue in our series (in association with TENA), she tells us how she and her wife, Shar, also menopausal, are getting through it as a team.

This article is in partnership with TENA.

Before my hysterectomy in 2016, I actually felt quite excited. That may sound strange, but after suffering with endometriosis on my left ovary since my 20s, I couldn’t wait to no longer be in severe pain. In fact, I was so focused on finally living a pain-free life that I didn’t give much thought to the fact I was going to enter medically-induced menopause. 

That is, until the night sweats started about a month later. It was like a sudden eruption heat through my body. I’d get very clammy and just want to rip my clothes off! What’s more, I was sleeping next to someone also having them. My wife Shar and I have been together for 14 years and got married in 2017. She’s 51 and while nothing can be confirmed we think she’s been peri-menopausal for around 8 years. But we had no idea; we’d never even heard of perimenopause!

If more people talked more openly about menopause, there wouldn’t be so many of us in the dark about it. There must be more discussion and communication without stigma. Unfortunately, menopausal women are often victims of the ‘gender health gap’, where female-specific conditions are overlooked in healthcare. GPs need to be made more aware of menopause – and what is going on in women’s bodies – and that awareness will, hopefully, ripple out into society.

Luckily, Shar and I have learnt to manage as a team. Neither of us are taking HRT, so it’s been a learning process. Because of the night sweats, we do often spend hours throwing off the quilt, chucking it onto the other person, then waking up shivering and trying to steal the quilt back! Shar also has other physical symptoms that I don’t: bladder weakness and itchy skin, for which she uses topical treatments.

Juggling menopause in a relationship can be complicated. I’ve always been an emotionally-charged person with mood swings – exacerbated by menopause – yet Shar, who is usually level-headed, has struggled with the emotional imbalance of menopause. One minute, she’ll be crying over something that wouldn’t normally bother her; the next, she’ll feel almost numb. But while we do sometimes snap at each other, we’ve never had the sort of relationship where we scream and shout. Instead, we try and recognise when the other is on a short fuse. We say to each other: ‘I’m here for you, but I’m also going to give you some space’. It’s about being attuned to each other, supportive and understanding.

Our mental health benefited from moving to the country. In 2019 we were lucky to be able to relocate to a cottage in Shropshire, surrounded by rolling fields and lots of sheep. That, along with the peace, fresh air and countryside walks, has been incredibly good for our mental wellbeing and, in turn, managing our menopause symptoms.

Shar and I feel very lucky to be a same-sex couple on our menopause journeys together. We can truly empathise with what each other is going through. So many women can feel alone in menopause, or that the people around them just don’t get it - again, because it’s not talked about enough. While we didn’t know much going in to the menopause, we’re so looking forward to coming out the other side in the most informed, empowered and confident way possible. The road may be a little rocky in the meantime, but one thing’s for sure: whatever the menopause throws at us, we’ll deal with it as a team.

Your new sleep heroes

As Jackie says, no woman should have to face menopause alone, whether it’s night sweats, topsy turvy emotions, bladder weakness (70% of women relate the onset of urinary incontinence to their final menstrual period[i]), or all of the above and more. Which is why TENA Discreet Maxi Night Pads Duo should be part of your support squad – they’ll give you the back-up you need so you can sleep soundly without worry. Offering protection from leaks (they’re super secure), odour (they contain unique micro fresh pearls to control any smells) and moisture (they’ve got a special high absorption zone), plus a wider back to give you protection while lying down, these pads are truly your new slumber saviours.

Up to 70% of women relate the onset of their urinary incontinence to their final menstrual period. After this time women may also report an increase in urinary urgency which can lead to urgency incontinence and cystitis-like­symptoms including dysuria (burning or discomfort when passing urine). These symptoms can all be related to a depletion of oestrogen in the urinary tract and vagina and can worsen in severity the further post menopause that women become.