From Friday 14th to Sunday 16th May, Dumfries House will host the Women’s Health Conference, where the expertise of The Prince’s Foundation’s health co-ordinators and international medical experts stands to benefit participants from all over the world.
The three-day conference will focus on menopause and fertility, two areas in which The Prince’s Foundation has years of experience through delivery of programmes available to the public. Participants would typically attend in person but, since March 2020, have taken part via online platforms due to physical distancing restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
Between March 2020 and February 2021, The Prince’s Foundation’s health and wellbeing co-ordinators Shiona Johnston and Carolyn Paton have run five virtual programmes with 50 people, consisting mainly of members of the local Ayrshire community but also a few participants from the rest of the UK, United States and Canada.
Among the recent success stories among participants of the menopause programme is Christine Dowson, who quit her dream job due to the doubt and lack of confidence symptomatic of menopause. Having gained, through the programme, a better understanding of the mental struggle that can accompany the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, the renowned Ayr-based entertainer who tours the world, is ready to embrace life on stage once again.
“My husband and I had worked in the entertainment industry for years, travelling all over with our cabaret show,” she said. “Working on a cruise ship and experiencing life in the Caribbean was always something we’d always aspired to and we got the chance a couple of years ago. I realise now that at that point in my life I was peri-menopausal, full of anxiety and doubting myself. I began to feel like an alien on the stage and it became a huge issue to the extent that, when we were offered the chance to extend our contract, I just couldn’t do it, despite it having been all I’d wished for.”
Soon after giving up her Caribbean adventure, Christine was told at her local GP of The Prince’s Foundation’s programme dedicated to helping women experiencing the effects of menopause.
“When you engage in an online health programme, you don’t know what to expect, and you’re nervous and self-conscious,” she said. “It was so educational and gave an important insight into what’s happening to your body. You don’t feel like yourself and it’s quite an emotional experience to go through. By taking part in this programme with experts and fellow participants, you get to hear everybody’s story. You gain an idea of what worked for other people in dealing with symptoms and you’re absorbing knowledge from experts in the field and can ask them anything you like.
“The programme is a godsend. I’d say to anyone who is experiencing the menopause ‘Don’t give up!’. There’s definitely a solution for every situation you’re in. If you do take part in the programme, you’ll feel a hundred times better about yourself. You feel isolated until you join a programme like this that helps you understand why you feel how you feel and how you, and others round you, can help.”
The cost of participating in any of our programmes for those registered with a GP in Ayrshire and Arran is covered by generous funding by the People's Postcode Lottery. For those outwith that area, there is a small cost, which is dependent on bursary availability.
The Prince’s Foundation’s Chiu Health and Wellness Programmes have been devised and cultivated based on local need. Co-ordinators Shiona and Carolyn work in partnership with local GPs, who have identified a need for these specific programmes to complement NHS primary care services.
The in-person sessions we ran before the pandemic would typically run for three hours each week, whereas the online sessions run over the past year have been reduced to two hours per week.
In-person, the first hour would comprise of movement or activity such as yoga, circuits or tai chi followed by an educative session for an hour, then an introduction to a complementary therapy.
To ensure our participants comfort online, we begin with the education session, which is an exchange of evidence-based clinical information on subjects like sleep, nutrition, and pelvic health, and relationships. The programme ends with a Q&A with our specialist team. The second hour of our virtual sessions comprises a range of complementary therapies, such as acupressure (an online-friendly version of acupuncture), reflexology participants can practise on their own, breathing techniques and mindfulness.
"We talk about clinical symptoms and treatments for menopause symptoms. We describe how the lifestyle changes we make in some areas of life can support menopausal symptoms: nutrition, movement, sleep, self-care; pelvic health; mental health and wellbeing in midlife. We also look at the connection between the mind and the body and the benefits of complementary therapies to support menopause, we introduce acupuncture, reflexology, mindfulness, and yoga. Over the six weeks, women get to share their journeys and together they find they are not alone in the way they feel; and help support each other." Shiona Johnston, Health and Wellbeing Coordinator.
The Women's Health Conference by The Prince's Foundation will run from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th May. To book tickets, please visit tinyurl.com/PFHarmonyinWomensHealth.
In recognition of Dr Gabriel and Mrs Christine Chiu's support of The Prince's Foundation, these programmes are known as "The Prince’s Foundation Chiu Health and Wellness Programmes". With support from the People’s Postcode Lottery.