Menopause retreats are now an option available to women to access information, support and health services to aid their menopause journey.
Menopause has long been associated with its physical symptoms, most of which can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, such as hot flushes. When we think of menopause, we may also naturally think of aging, because it’s a phase of life that starts from the early 40s with perimenopause. Perimenopause is the phase leading up to menopause. On average can last four to six years, but the duration can vary. The average age of menopause in Australia for when the last period occurs is 51, though this can also vary.
The physical symptoms of menopause and its link to aging are major reasons for it being a taboo subject for such a long time. Dr. Ginni Mansberg, a GP who has for over 20 years of specialised in seeing patients with menopause, says, “It was really recognised that women had hot flushes but there was no recognition of the other things that come along with menopause. Now we are really understanding that there’s a lot more to it.”
While it’s still work in progress, menopause is now being addressed and discussed more in media, government discussions and in workplaces.
Dr Karen Magraith, President of the Australasian Menopause Society says, “Knowledge of, and education about, menopause is still quite limited given it has traditionally been a taboo topic,” she said. “In previous generations, women were expected to deal with it quietly but today’s women expect information and treatment options.”
Earlier this year, The Global Wellness Summit (GWS) noted an increase in the launch of menopause retreats, providing education, therapies, personalised attention and access to health professionals and a community of other women to draw on. The trend has taken off overseas, with retreats that include a mix of medical-wellness, ancient and alternative therapies to address physical and mental challenges of menopause. For example, Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland’s dedicated Menopause Centre, features diagnostic and hormonal testing, HRT, acupuncture and more. At Italian medical-wellness resort Preidlhof in South Tyrol, guests have access to a menu of diagnostic (from heart to sleep analysis) and ancient treatments.
Carla Temple, co-founder of Spirited Women in Melbourne, had been running a women’s circle for 15 years, documenting the topics that were discussed and from listening to women’s concerns. From this,in 2017, together with her co-founder and twin sister Amelia Suckling, they developed Pause and Change, a one day menopause retreat, for women to understand the changes that occur in mind, body and spirit. It featured guest health practitioners such as naturopaths, dietitians and homeopaths, for a 1 hour presentation.
However, it was more than just about learning about the physical symptoms and hormonal changes. Retreats, like Temple’s Pause and Change, are now looking beyond the physical symptoms to address emotional factors that are important to support menopause stage, such as connection, a supportive environment and understanding and embracing the meaning behind this phase of life.
“For many women, it can be a chaotic and exhausting time managing the hormonal changes that occur. Women feel reassured to have their symptoms normalised in a safe and sacred space.”
Another common thread that Temple found was that women think they’re alone. She says that during menopause, women need self-care physically, emotionally and spiritually. “Physically, it’s about having a good health care practitioner. Emotionally, it’s about finding a group of women who have transitioned or who are transitioning who can support you so you feel like you’re not going crazy or alone, or that the symptoms are unique to you. Spiritually, it’s about finding a practise, whether it’s yoga, meditation, tai chi or a creative pursuit such as painting, whatever that helps bring you into balance
“It’s a journey no woman should do alone. Do you do childbirth or your periods by yourself? You would talk with your family and friends. Why should this be any different?”
Dr Ginni Mansberg also echoes these findings. She is passionate about providing as many options to women as possible for managing their health. She saw a gap in evidence based information and services for menopause. With her extensive experience in the field, being at the forefront of the latest menopause research and management. And as a member of both the Australian and International Menopause Societies, she started Don’t Sweat It! with TV presenter Shelly Horton, running online intensive workshops in the workplace on menopause.
What she heard from women was that so many of them feel really alone, and they don’t know where to go. So they created the Don’t Sweat It Peri and Menopause retreat to help empower and connect women going through menopause. It ran for the first time in July in the Whitsundays this year. It provided information sessions so women could learn from Dr Ginni’s expertise and the most up-to-date science and tips on managing menopause.
“Of course, we gave valuable information. But it was that connection they really felt to other women going through the same thing, having a safe space for their story to feel heard, validated, and that, ‘Oh my God, it’s not just me, I’m not going crazy!’ That kind of feeling is so powerful when you are going through something that is so terrifying.”
Dr Mansberg says due to the positive impact it made on women, who now continue to keep in touch in a dedicated post retreat Whatsapp group, it’s important that she will run it again next year. The retreat also includes morning walks along the beach of the Whitsundays and time for women to let their hair down, to laugh and dance.
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