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Gynecology for Guys

What men need to know.

Undoing the Ignorance

Using a blitz of slides, background music, and nonstop patter, Bekkar plunges in. He shows the men accurate pictures of the female anatomy, drawn simply on a slide with crucial parts labeled. Another slide shows the complicated ebb and flow of hormones during a typical monthly cycle.

Then he introduces premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. PMS is defined as physical or emotional symptoms, or both, that precede menstruation and that are severe enough to disrupt work or other activities.

Most women experience some symptoms, such as breast tenderness, bloating, crying spells, or anxiety, but some women are affected more severely. Women who have PMS, he says, may feel "powerless and guilty. It's not like they wake up and say, 'I'm going to be hard on my partner.' "

Just when stuff begins to get heavy, Bekkar turns comic and shows a slide entitled "The Top Ten List of Things We Don't Recommend You Say to a Woman With PMS" while he plays David Letterman's background music. Among the no-nos: "Hey, those jeans used to be real loose on you, didn't they?" and "Aw, c'mon -- that PMS stuff is all in your head!"

Next, Bekkar turns to menopause. First he defines it (the cessation of monthly periods, occurring on average around age 51), then discusses symptoms (fatigue, hot flashes, forgetfulness, decreased sex drive, heavier periods before they cease entirely), and finally, treatments (synthetic hormones, natural [plant-based] hormone substitutes, and other remedies).

Squashing That Fix-It Mentality

Knowledge is power, but is only part of the equation, says Bekkar. Men must also overcome their urge to fix, fix, fix -- and, instead, "shut up and listen." He calls these the "four magic words." The 14 guys in class smirk when they hear this.

To illustrate, Bekkar cites an example of a woman with PMS who has had a hard day at work. She flew off the handle with a co-worker and now feels terrible. At home, she wants to talk to her partner about it. If he's like most men, Bekkar says, her partner quickly suggests how to fix the situation.

Instead, guys should listen, give their partner time to vent, and then ask a question pertaining to what she just said -- showing they really thought about her words.

After Bekkar gave his "shut-up-and-listen" drill at one class, one man approached him during the break and said, "My girlfriend has been telling me this for eight years." Somehow, hearing it from Bekkar made it ring true.

Helping Out More

Besides listening, a guy whose partner has PMS can help out more around the house when symptoms flare up, be understanding of her moods, and encourage her to exercise. "That does not mean pointing to the door while munching a big bag of Doritos and saying, 'Honey, take a lap around the block,' " Bekkar says. Instead, he suggests, offer to watch young children while she works out or suggest going for a walk together.

Men with partners going through menopause might help by being patient about sex, encouraging their partner to stay on hormones or other medications, if prescribed, and to keep doctor's appointments, Bekkar says. Most women appreciate their partner's help in trying to decide on the best options.

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