AN initiative has been launched to help women to open up about their experiences with menopause.
Two nurses organised the event at a café for women who wanted to discuss what can be a difficult, life-changing, and sometimes debilitating health issue.
In some cases, long-neglected discussions were had over coffee and cake at First Avenue Coffee Company on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast.
A cross-section of women from different walks of life, and with symptoms of varying degrees of severity, talked about how the menopause impacts their daily lives.
"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," said Fionnuala, one of the participants, according to RTE.
"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," said Susan, another participant.
"And actually then go home and peer educate the other people they live with at home about the issue."
Launched in in Perth in Scotland by Rachel Weiss in 2017, the Menopause Café concept has now caught on in Northern Ireland as women seek to discuss an issue seldom discussed so publicly.
Friends and fellow nurses Liz Wenden-Kerr and Anne McGale, who both work at the Holywood Arches Health Centre in east Belfast, brought the initiative to their city.
Both have first-hand experience with women who have suffered serious health problems and lifestyle changes after becoming menopausal.
Describing her experience, Anne said: “As a practice nurse for 38 years I was always telling people what to expect, and I sort of thought I knew and that I was going to manage it no problem.
"But when it hit me at age 51, I suffered from severe anxiety and I ended up having to take time out of work. I lost two-and-a-half stone in weight, never mind the other symptoms like the flushes and the sweats and the palpitations.
"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."
While Anne says there is increasing awareness of the issue among employers, there is more work to be done.
Offering an inkling into the popular demand for such conversations, Liz Wenden-Kerr said demand for the first event in south Belfast on Thursday night exceeded expectations, with all available places filled quickly.
"That showed us that there is a need for this kind of service, that women have an appetite for it," she said.
"Every single woman will go through the menopause and there is a lack of information and education about it, and it can be so debilitating, with physical, psychological and emotional symptoms.
"The idea of the cafés is to get women talking, understanding each other and realising that they are not alone."