What is the menopause?
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
However, around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age. This is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
The early onset of menopause can occur after surgery, for example, a full hysterectomy.
What are the symptoms?
Most women will experience some symptoms around the menopause. The duration and severity of these symptoms varies from woman to woman. Symptoms usually start a few months or years before your periods stop, known as the perimenopause, and can persist for some time afterwards.
Common symptoms can include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Mood changes
- Difficulties sleeping
- Decreased sex drive
- Facial hair growth
- Head aches
- Unitary Tract Infections (for example, cystitis)
- Vaginal dryness
The menopause can increase other risks like weak bones (osteoporosis)
The NHS Choices website has lots of useful information and fact sheets regarding the menopause.
Crikey! Doesn’t it seem bleak?
Remember, not everyone experiences all of those symptoms and some people find that making small changes can help enormously. There are many treatments, therapies and lifestyle changes which can help you through the menopause
What can I do to feel better?
Lifestyle changes and self care
A few lifestyle changes can help alleviate some of the symptoms such as,
- wearing light clothing
- keeping your bedroom cool at night
- taking a cool shower, using a fan or having a cold drink
- trying to reduce your stress levels
- avoiding potential triggers, such as spicy food, caffeine, smoking and alcohol
- taking regular exercise and losing weight if you’re overweight
- Relaxation exercises
- Tai Chi
- Talking therapies
Complementary and Herbal therapies
Some people find complementary and herbal therapies helpful. An Internet search will bring up a whole range of suggestions but it’s worth discussing your symptoms with your GP in the first instance.
There’s lots of useful information on herbal treatments on the womens-health-concern website
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Your GP may discuss taking HRT. This involves taking oestrogen to replace the decline in your body’s own levels around the time of the menopause. This can relieve many of the associated symptoms.
HRT is not advisable for some women, such as those who have had certain types of breast cancer or are at high risk of getting breast cancer.
Your GP can give you more information about the risks and benefits of HRT to help you decide whether or not you want to take it.
It’s not all bleak!
Just a few things menopausal women have said about their own experience
In the MailOnline on 10th March 2016, Davina McCall reported that going through the menopause has been a ‘powerful’ experience and urges other women to be more open about their homones. Davina said, “I feel reborn”.
Carol Weeg comments in an article about 10 Reasons to Look Forward to Menopause in Everyday Health that there can be a positive impact on your life,
“…for one thing, not all physical changes caused by reduced female hormone levels are negative. For another, many of the emotional and social changes can actually be energizing”.
Ditch the taboo and speak out about menopause at work
An article in the Independent, 6th December 2015 calls for more recognition of the menopause in the working environment:
The “great taboo” of menopause should be discussed between employers and female workers as openly as any other issue, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has said. Dame Sally Davies, the first woman to hold the role, has called on bosses to create an environment where women feel comfortable discussing symptoms such as problems with memory and concentration, in an effort to reduce sick leave and increase productivity. It is hoped the drive will encourage women to stay in work.
“The menopause is a natural part of life, but it can feel like a great taboo. It is inexcusable that women who are experiencing symptoms should feel unable to discuss how they are feeling at work,” she said.
Aging is beautiful when it’s embraced with love, respect and compassion for self.