Cake and conversation: the Gateshead library offering menopause support

Round table discussion in Birtley library
The monthly menopause café is a chance to discuss issues over a cup of tea. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

You may be used to visiting the library to pick up a book or information.

Now, Birtley library on the outskirts of Gateshead is offering a listening ear to people living with the menopause.

Staff are holding a monthly menopause café; a chance for women - and men - to come together and chat in a friendly environment.

The idea sprang from staff themselves, who were supporting each other through this time in their lives.

Library manager Denise Envy explained: "It just helped to get each other through the day really.

"A lot of library staff are women but we do have men as well and it's important for them to realise what's going on and to have that open conversation."

Libraries in Gateshead are already involved in activities which support the wellbeing of local people.

The menopause café was seen as a natural extension.

The first event was to coincide with World Menopause Day which takes place every year on 18 October.

Dates for future drop-in sessions are in the diary for November and December 2022.

What is the menopause?

  • The NHS describes the menopause as the time when periods stop due to lower hormone levels.

  • It says this usually happens between 45 and 55 years old.

  • Symptoms vary between individuals but can include anxiety, hot flushes, palpitations and difficulty sleeping.

As the issues surrounding the menopause are discussed more openly, women are also coming together in the Felling area of Gateshead to learn more.

Crowhall Medical Group has begun holding information sessions, prompted by one of its patients.

Nurse Sonia Waterston is working with patient Ange Kelly to support women through the menopause. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Ange Kelly told us she suffered menopausal symptoms for years, describing it as "a very lonely place."

She said: "Not everybody understands it, your partner, your family; it's hard for them to understand because obviously they don't know what you're going through.

"All you need when you're sitting there is that lifeline to get you through it."

The practice nurse manager Sonia Waterston hopes the advice sessions will provide women with basic information about the menopause that will enable them to get more from any subsequent one-to-one appointments at the surgery.

She explained: "Whereas you're starting from nothing when someone comes in and says 'I'm suffering hot flushes, I'm having mood changes and you have to start looking into that, if someone comes in and says 'I've done this questionnaire, I know this is what I'm experiencing, what can you do to help?', it's a very different consultation."

Information about hormone replacement therapy is among the subjects highlighted by the practice. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

At a time when awareness of menopause is growing among health professionals and their patients, the experiences of Crowhall Medical Group will be shared with other practices across Gateshead.

The NHS advises all women who think they have symptoms of the menopause or perimenopause to speak to their GP practice or a pharmacist.

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