…as with the sensitisation around pregnancy that has allowed men who are having babies with their partners to faint away at their convenience at the annexes of labour rooms the world over, the world will be a better place if we could sensitise male folk to the fact, distasteful, of female menopause.


There are few excuses for merriment more legitimate than when a bloke announces to his chums that he and his partner are having a baby. Often, the bacchanalia is a year-long activity: As the company seeks every opportunity to toast to the health and good fortune of the unborn child. With speculations as to the sex of the baby tiding the heavy drinking along nicely. In spite of the male hard work, though, only one partner in a relationship truly ever has a baby. The female. Growing up, my mum’s refrain was that pregnancy isn’t an ailment. And shouldn’t she know? She had seven of us!

But, if Rhesus Factor Compatibility concerns are a useful indicator, the truth is that pregnancy is an invasion of the female body by another foreign body, but one that the female body has learnt to live with. And not particularly well, if the contraindications of pregnancies bear any evidence. The morning sicknesses speak to the severity of the illness, as do the strange cravings for food. Nearly always, a woman has to live with these for all of nine months, including the rather messy birth process – not for the faint-hearted, this.

The only arguments, then, that support the fiction of a male and his partner having a baby are the old wives’ tales that most of us were nurtured on. I thought I had come full square on much of the latter. I never signed up for Women In Nigeria, but I had enough friends as members to understand that the only way that I could turn out a rounded human being was to try to fully understand what the needs, and concerns are of the other half of mankind. One reason why I am in full support of a woman’s right to decide without let on all matters relating to her body and welfare.

And so, some menopausal women spot facial hair. Remember, they are older and past child-bearing age. And, presto, you have those witches of yore, from whom we fled as kids. A large portion of the old wives’ tales that young males survived on was this one that attributed hair on a woman’s face to less-than-honourable vocations.


Imagine therefore my shock over the last few years, having to re-learn all that I thought I knew about menopause. Older, yes, I am. And likelier to walk in the company of ageing females. But that is scant excuse for the shallowness of what I knew. Menopause was that period, usually, after fifty when women stopped producing oestrogen, and menstruating. It was that simple. Rid of the monthly blood-letting, there was even the suggestion that it was tidier.

You couldn’t be more wrong! Start with facial hair. As the production of female hormones fall off, the male residues often kick-in. And so, some menopausal women spot facial hair. Remember, they are older and past child-bearing age. And, presto, you have those witches of yore, from whom we fled as kids. A large portion of the old wives’ tales that young males survived on was this one that attributed hair on a woman’s face to less-than-honourable vocations.

If such stigma were all that the menopausal woman suffers from, it would still be unbelievably bad. It gets worse, unfortunately. It took me a while to understand the flushes. It wasn’t just that the menopausal woman is capable of quantum superposition between malaria-like temperature levels and hypothermic levels in the time it takes one to bat an eye-lid. Like D. O. Fagunwa’s Akara-ogun, she is susceptible to feel very cold in the most humid environment, and hot in very temperate conditions. The hormonal changes mess up with the menopausal woman in further ways. Mood swings far more severe than the temperature swings. Her appetite. Sleep patterns. Emotional state. All of these change in unpredictable ways. Her bones, victims now, of the loss of oestrogen, become fragile – and she, prone to injuries that she would have waved away a few years back.

If menopause is such a private hell, and affects women in their prime, why is it talked of in whispers in private? It would be far easier for males to relate with their female counterparts, as friends, colleagues, and bosses, if they had the foggiest idea what the latter were going through.


For different women, the cocktail of responses to menopause is different. Hormone replacement therapy works a treat. And it is not always true that you have to turn 50 to go through all of these. A friend went through the gamut of experiences when she turned 40. And, yes, it is often easy to have that baby in the heat of all this transition.

If menopause is such a private hell, and affects women in their prime, why is it talked of in whispers in private? It would be far easier for males to relate with their female counterparts, as friends, colleagues, and bosses, if they had the foggiest idea what the latter were going through. Worse is that older women do not talk enough about it to prepare pre-menopausal females for the full gamut of disconcerting experiences. In conversations, I have been offered the excuse that each female experiences menopause differently, and so, a worksheet might be hard to put together for those who are yet to pass by that gate.

But, as with the sensitisation around pregnancy that has allowed men who are having babies with their partners to faint away at their convenience at the annexes of labour rooms the world over, the world will be a better place if we could sensitise male folk to the fact, distasteful, of female menopause.

Uddin Ifeanyi, journalist manqué and retired civil servant, can be reached @IfeanyiUddin.