The Menopause – Effects and Changes
What is it?
Menopause is when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and levels of hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone fall. The menopausal transition can bring hot flushes, trouble sleeping, moodiness and irritability, depression, or a combination of these symptoms. A woman is in menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months. The average age is 51 for when this starts, but some women in menopause can be under 30. Perimenopause is the transition period to menopause. Some have no or few symptoms – but for others, the changes can be severe. The menopausal transition affects each woman uniquely and in various ways and the body begins to use energy differently.
- Menopause and perimenopause symptoms can have a big impact on your life, including relationships and work.
- There are things you can do to help with symptoms. There are also medicines that can replace the missing hormones and help relieve your symptoms.
Let’s talk about it
Though it has often been seen as an uncomfortable or extremely private subject, in the past few years it has been a debated topic in which the government considered that women should be granted menopause leave. It comes as a challenge for women to work while going through this process and still having to work despite the mental health implications this it will have when trying to maintain their career. Employers were asked to be compassionate and flexible but this request was rejected as it could cause “discrimination” against men even though nine out of ten women felt menopause had a negative and complicated impact on their working life.
In May 2021, celebrity TV presenter Davina McCall lead the documentary, Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and The Menopause, where she spoke of her personal experiences while transitioning and other women talking about how menopause shouldn’t be an awkward subject matter. She talked about being unable to sleep, random unpleasant hot flushes and feeling nervous when addressing the change. This show triggered a vast social media response with many women feeling positive to speak of their own experiences and the new information learned from the documentary. Many women spoke of mood swings and panic attacks they had when they didn’t know how to deal with this change.
How can I help the transition?
Exercising 2-3 times a week but being careful of intense workouts, also walking can be a calming experience for a difficult day. A change in diet and nutrition; some studies suggest that a plant based, vegan diet could help reduce or ease hot flushes due to the increased intake of soybeans directly or when it’s used as a substitute in certain ingredients. To help you manage hot flushes, simple things like wearing light clothing, using a fan and keeping your bedroom cool could help.
Some women consider Hormone Replacement Therapy which is used to replace the hormones that are at a lower level as you approach the menopause. Women should be reassured that HRT is unlikely to increase the risk of dementia or to have a detrimental effect on cognitive function in women initiating HRT before the age of 65. However, HRT should not be initiated for the purpose of reducing the risk of dementia in postmenopausal women and at this time, there is not enough evidence to support prescribing HRT for prevention of dementia.
However, while people with young onset dementia do experience memory and concentration problems, these are not usually early symptoms, it is important to see a GP if you have any concerns.
Some residents may have passed their menopausal change, this important milestone is always a topic to stay informed on. This change usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as fourteen years and though there’s still stigma and discomfort, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and there’s support out there. Try to be open about symptoms with partners, family and friends – it can help them to understand what you’re going through. Sharing experiences with other women going through the same thing could be reassuring; there are many websites, blogs and videos online where women have shared their stories.