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Sharing is caring - busting menopause myths

Myths and mysteries surround the menopause, and many women don’t know what to expect when their time to experience it comes along.

The chances of encountering menopause symptoms are as high as 90 percent, with ten percent of women leaving their jobs due to symptoms of ‘the change’ according to research by The Fawcett Society. So on 30th July 2022, Afrocats, The Menopause Charity and Manchester Menopause Hive joined forces with Whitworth Art Gallery to hold a free Menopause Pilot Project event in the spacious Art Garden and Art Studio to raise awareness about women’s health during this often-difficult time in their lives.

A safe space to discuss menopause health

Our event offered a friendly and safe place for around 50 women from diverse backgrounds, including refugees and asylum seekers from Greater Manchester, to talk about their reproductive health, raise much-needed awareness around the menopause experience, and dismantle widespread illusions surrounding it.

Afrocats founder Magdalen kicked off with introductions in the outdoor Art Garden, followed by the chance to let off some steam with a creative movement warmup despite a little bit of drizzle – a few drops of rain aren’t enough to stop the Afrocats!

Empowering women to discuss symptoms with their GP

Afterwards, the lovely Dr Zoe, founder of Manchester Menopause Hive, took the helm in the indoors Art Studio with the help of Persian interpreter Jila to introduce the background and symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause.

Dr Charlotte took the second group of participants outside to run the session with support from Dr Ally in the Art Garden.

Symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause can be wide-ranging, and confusingly similar to pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).

They can include, but are not limited to:

  • Changes in mood

  • Brain fog

  • Feeling chilly

  • Irregular periods

  • Hot flashes

  • Night sweats

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Weight gain and a slowing metabolism

Women undergoing the menopause sometimes also report not feeling very thirsty, so it is important to always stay hydrated.

As a result of this information, attendees commented that they felt empowered to take this information with them to their GP to help guide their diagnosis – something they say does not happen often enough.

And there was shock in the studio as Dr Zoe confessed that in ten years of medical training, only two hours are spent on women’s health issues such as the menopause, and it's not mandatory.

This is something that needs to change, and urgently.

Safeguarding menopausal health

Dr Zoe also offered up some dietary advice for those struggling with the effects of the menopause as it can seriously affect the heart, bones, and brain.

Tips and tricks include:

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Take regular exercise

  • Take vitamin D if you live in the UK

  • Avoid excessive sugar and salt

Important: always any discuss dietary changes or taking supplements with a GP first.

The effects of stress on the menopause experience were also talked about at length, and everyone came up with their own thoughts on how to combat this.

Ideas included:

  • Meditation

  • Shopping

  • Prayer

  • Walking

  • Cooking

  • Gardening

  • Being creative

  • Engaging in positivity

  • Healthy companionship

  • Avoiding stressful situations

  • Looking out for those struggling

Advice about prescriptions such as gels, IUDs, vaginal oestrogen, and tablets was also given, and sample of Oestrogel and Blissel was handed around for everyone to familiarise themselves with looking for them instore or online.

Dr Zoe also revealed the bizarre origins of HRT hormones (horse urine) – fortunately these days the core ingredient now comes from the yam!

The participants were then invited into one of the gallery spaces for a menopause mindfulness session with Afrocats collaborator and wellbeing workshop facilitator, Mika Karachaliou.

Wrapping up with goody bags and great feedback

The session finished with a symptom-checking session, and then everyone enjoyed a culturally-inclusive lunch choice of jollof rice and chicken, or chickpea curry and chapatti provided by WAST (Women Seeking Asylum Together) .

All attendees were gifted an environmentally friendly goody bag brimming with gifts donated by friends of Dr Zoe and supporters of Manchester Menopause Hive. The bags included chocolate, handmade knitted crafts, notebooks, beauty treats, and product samples including vaginal gel and lubricant.

The day ran smoothly for everyone, and feedback included:

“It was useful session for me. I didn’t know much about menopause. I knew nothing about this topic. Thanks for having the session.”

“Very motivating and answers a lot of my doubts and concerns about the menopause. Loved the session with Doctor Zoe, the warmup with Magdalen, and mindfulness. There is a lot of taboo re HRT and it was so good to learn about it.”

Afrocats, The Menopause Charity, Manchester Menopause Hive and Whitworth Art Gallery look forward to holding the next menopause awareness event, so keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media for more details!

You can find out how The Menopause Charity can help you by visiting their website. Discover more about our partnership with Whitworth Art Gallery here. To help Afrocats and our much-needed inclusive work, visit our Support Us page.


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