The menopause quite simply put is the end of a woman’s monthly cycles, she is considered menopausal after a period of 12 months without a period. Women are born with a finite number of eggs and once these eggs have either declined in number or are no longer viable, a women stops ovulating and her ovaries are no longer able to produce significant amounts of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The decline of these hormones is responsible for a whole host of symptoms.
The average age for menopause in the UK is 51 but women often experience menopause symptoms from their early 40s. If periods stop before age 40 it is considered premature menopause, this happens to 1 in hundred women.
Menopause doesn’t happen suddenly for most of us, and it is likely to take place over a number of years known as the peri-menopause (up to 10 years before cessation of periods) as hormones decrease. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happens gradually, it can be a bit of a roller coaster ride as oestrogen stops and stutters, making symptoms unpredictable.
Some women continue to have regular monthly cycles but still experience other symptoms of peri-menopause such as migraines, anxiety, brain fog, which they don’t necessarily contribute to a hormone imbalance.
Oestrogen receptors are found all over the body from the brain, skin, to the vagina and bones, and herein lies the problem. As women’s hormones decline symptoms may present themselves as these tissues are no longer stimulated by oestrogen. Every woman has her unique biochemistry and therefore will experience her own unique menopause. If like me, you thought of the menopause as a time in your life when your periods stopped, you had a few hot flushes and then everything was fine again, you might want to think again.
Here I have listed some of the common symptoms that are associated with peri-menopause and menopause. Not all women experience these, but the list is just to help you identify any that may be affecting you.
- Hot flushes.
- Sweats Irregular periods
- Low mood
- Sleep issues
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- Joint aches
- Dry skin, irritation, rashes
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal symptoms (dryness, irritation, painful sexual intercourse)
- Low libido
- Lack of motivation
Menopause comes to a lot of us when we’re already over stretched – kids leaving home, caring for elderly parents, holding down jobs, as well as coming to terms with no longer being able to recreate. As if that isn’t enough to deal with the menopause may present us with physical and psychological issues too.
It is my aim to help women feel empowered, confident and informed and to take stock of all the positives that come our way at this time of life. Rather than suffer in silence, and hide this transition. I’ve come to prefer the labels ‘positive menopause’ or ‘middle youth’ which I’ve come across lately. I believe there is a lot we can do to help ourselves live happy and healthy lives going forward, rather than shut up and put up with the unpleasant symptoms that we may experience. Menopause should just be seen as another stage in life, and with the right direction and advice it can be a brilliant one.