The Menopause Café initiative, first launched in Scotland in 2017, has made its debut on the island of Ireland.
The first ever Menopause Café launched in Belfast this week to encourage women to talk about the impact of menopause on their life.
Organised by two nurses, the event aims to encourage conversation and provide information for women about what can be a life-changing health issue.
With important conversations taking place over coffee and cake, the event is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
The first of its kind – a groundbreaking initiative
The first ever Menopause Café launched in Belfast last week at First Avenue Coffee Company on the Ormeau Road.
Women of varying ages came together to speak about their experience of menopause. Many who attended hope there will be similar events in the future.
Fionnuala, one of the participants at the event, told RTE News, “We’re all women here tonight, we all have very many different experiences, similarities yes as well, but without doubt, we learn from each other.”
A significant health issue facing women – encouraging conversation
Women from all walks of life, suffering from various symptoms, came together to share their experiences.
They hope that by opening up the conversation, education and acceptance of speaking about menopause will become normalised in other areas of their life.
Susan was another participant at the fledgling event. She said, “It’s a health issue that all women will experience at some stage in their life. So, I think it’s really important to be in an environment where everybody can share that experience and learn from each other.
“And actually then go home and peer educate the other people they live with at home about the issue.”
First launched in Scotland – spreading to Ireland
Perth woman Rachel Weiss had the idea for the Menopause Café in her hometown in Scotland back in 2017.
Inspired by Kirsty Wark’s BBC series, Menopause and Me, and the ‘Death Café’ initiative, Weiss set up the first Menopause Café.
Alongside two friends, Gail Jack and Lorna Fotheringham, Weiss organised the first event.
Unsure if many would turn up, they were delighted when over 30 women arrived, asking for more Menopause Café events.
First ever Menopause Café launched in Belfast – the start of something great
Four years later and the first ever Menopause Café has been launched in Belfast.
Friends Liz Wenden-Kerr and Anne McGale, who both work as nurses at Holywood Arches Health Centre in east Belfast, decided to bring the concept to Northern Ireland.
Having both worked with women who had experienced serious health issues due to the menopause, they felt it was time to open up the conversation.
McGale suffered badly from the condition herself. She told RTE News, “Every single woman will go through the menopause. There is a lack of information and education about it, and it can be so debilitating.
“After going through what I did, I decided that I didn’t want any other women to go through it feeling alone.
“I think it’s very important that women are aware of it. We prepare women for pregnancy, we prepare young girls for puberty. So, I think it’s just another thing that we need to highlight.”
More to come – an exciting future for Menopause Cafés
The two nurses were overwhelmed by the response to the first ever Menopause Café launched in Belfast. All spaces were quickly taken.
Wenden-Kerr said the appetite for the event far exceeded expectations. She said, “That showed us that there is a need for this kind of service, that women have an appetite for it.
“The idea of the cafés is to get women talking, understanding each other and realising that they are not alone.”
Liz and Anne plan to hold similar events in the future, going wherever there is demand. Menopause Cafés can take place anywhere, whether in a coffee shop, a person’s home, or a local café.
They are also keen for men to join in on the conversation. They believe it is important for everyone to learn about the severity of the condition that affects all women.