What is Menopause?
There is a lot of talk about the menopause but what actually is it? The menopause is where the ovaries cease to release and egg every month and then periods stop permanently. Once a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months without any other logical reason such as surgery, medical intervention etc, she is said to have reached the menopause.
What age does menopause occur?
The average age for women to reach menopause in the UK is 51 years old but the transition towards menopause or perimenopause may start from 45-55 years. If a woman reaches menopause before she is 45 this is considered to be early menopause. If she reaches menopause before she is 40 this is known as premature menopause.
Perimenopause or the transition period before the menopause
Before periods stop completely there is usually a period of transition where the body starts to make the necessary changes to the body. This transition can last anywhere from a few months to ten years but in many cases lasts around 4 years.
Symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause
These can vary in severity with some people finding them more difficult to deal with than others
Symptoms of the menopause can include
- Periods may become lighter or heavier with a change in cycle length during the perimenopausal phase
- Hot Flushes/Hot Flashes
- Night sweats
- Lapses in concentration and memory (brain fog)
- Weight Gain
- Changes in mood including irritability, depression or low mood and mood swings
- Dryness of the vagina, eyes, mouth and skin
- Worsening symptoms of PMT
- Vaginal pain
- Painful intercourse
- Loss of libido
- Breast tenderness
- Joint stiffness,
- Aches and Pains
- Urine leakage when sneezing
Ways of easing the symptoms of Perimenopause/ Menopause
Lifestyle changes can be key to coping with the symptoms of perimenopause/ menopause
- Take regular exercise and eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains
- Wearing light bedclothes can be helpful for night sweats
- Cooling facial sprays can help hot flushes
- Wear a supportive bra to help ease breast tenderness
- Keep well hydrated
- For skin dryness use a good quality moisturiser or serum and sweep it in upwards movements towards your forehead
- Pilates is good for strengthening the core muscles and helpful for your pelvic floor and urine leakage issues
- For smokers going on a smoking cessation programme can help. Most GP practices have a smoking cessation programme available and those who don’t should be able to signpost you in the right direction
- Get a good bedtime routine in place. It can be useful to have a little notebook by the bed for any ideas and thoughts you might have buzzing round your head just as you’re trying to get to sleep.
- Put out everything you need for tomorrow before you go to bed to help ease your stress levels in the morning
- Try to have a warm bath before bed. Keep the bedroom temperature cool and try having the window open slightly to help keep the room cool
- If you are suffering from anxiety try cutting back on sugar and caffeine
- Surround yourself with supportive people who you can be your authentic self with and who you can have a laugh with. Meet regularly if you can
- Have a regular aromatherapy massage, reiki or reflexology treatment to support you and to help lower your stress levels. Book it into the diary in advance so that you know that your ‘me time’ is coming up
- Cut back on unnecessary stress, say no to anything that you don’t need to do and that you’d rather not do
- Be gentle on yourself whenever you can
Can I still get pregnant during the perimenopause?
Yes it is possible to get pregnant whilst your body is still ovulating, although fertility does start to decline as you get older. Unless you are trying to conceive it is important to use contraception until you have been period free for 12 consecutive months
Your GP or Family Planning clinic will be able to help advise you on the best choice of contraception for your needs.
Over to you
How are you finding perimenopause or menopause? What do you find helps your symptoms? Do you have any advice for anyone starting their menopause journey? Please let me know in the comments below.
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Sarah Cooper is a Reflexologist, Reiki Master Practitioner, Aromatherapist and Writer based in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, England.
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