Menopause Café event in Ipswich aims to break down taboos and combat isolation

Sharonne King and Sarah Northfield preparing for a Menopause Cafe, which will be held at La Tour Caf

Sharonne King and Sarah Northfield preparing for a Menopause Cafe, which will be held at La Tour Cafe in Ipswich Picture: SARAH NORTHFIELD - Credit: Sarah Northfield

A Menopause Café event is being launched in Ipswich, aiming to break through the taboo surrounding this stage of life and stop women feeling isolated.

The first event will be held at La Tour Cycle Café on Ipswich Waterfront from 7-9pm to on September 20 - and it is hoped the idea will spread across the area in future.

The aim is to give people the opportunity to discuss the impact of the menopause on those experiencing it, their friends and colleagues, and reflect on the “third stage of life.”

Organiser Sarah Northfield, 59, said: “There is life after the menopause!” The cafe will welcome both women and men of all ages, to discuss their experiences over tea and cake.

The world’s first Menopause Café was held in the Scottish city of Perth last year, and since then events have been held in other parts of UK, but so far mainly in Scotland and the North. Mrs Northfield came across an article about the cafes while researching the menopause online, and decided to bring the idea to Ipswich.

She said: “Ninety per cent of women I talk with all say that they wish more was known about the menopause. Women wish that the many difficulties around the menopause were common knowledge, and would like to feel free to speak about their experiences.”

Mrs Northfield has been suffering from hot flushes and night sweats for more than 10 years, and said she has also experienced feelings of a loss of identity - all symptoms experienced by many women at this stage of life.

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She said: “There is a silence surrounding the menopause that adds further distress to an already stressful phase in women’s lives.

“Women want to know that they are not the only ones who are experiencing what they are experiencing. They need to know that this is all part of the menopause.”

The founder of Menopause Café nationally, Rachel Weiss, was inspired by a TV programme Kirsty Wark made, called Menopause and Me, and also by the Death Café movement, which organises get-togethers where people meet up to discuss death and dying.

The cafés are a group-directed discussion group rather than a support or counselling session.

As well as discussing the physical effects of the menopause, people will have the opportunity to talk about life changes, such as leaving work. For example, Mrs Northfield said she previously felt defined by her work as a teacher, but, since she has left work, she and her husband are involved in many activities, such as salsa dancing and volunteering at Oak Tree Farm in Rushmere St Andrew.

Mrs Northfield said people she had spoken to locally had been very positive about the Menopause Cafe idea. Her friend Sharonne King is helping her to arrange the first event.

Anna Matthews, owner of the La Tour Cycle Café, has agreed to hold the first café session there, and Mandy Ginn, of The Museum Street Café in the town, is also planning to hold an event there in the future. There may also be a Menopause Festival in Ipswich in the future, following a successful event in Perth.

It is hoped the café idea will also spread to other venues across Suffolk. Anybody wanting to set up their own Menopause Café can find out more by visiting their website, or you can also email Sarah Northfield.