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 permenantly. 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 towrds 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 period, known as the perimenopuase, 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
- 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 permenopause/ 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 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 unnecssary 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
The Perimenopause and Menopause – When to see your GP
Some people manage their symptoms well or find that their symptoms are not very severe and can be managed at home with lifestyle changes and support from friends and family but if you’re not coping go see your GP
Go see your GP if..
- You find that you’re struggling don’t hesitate to see your GP. Thery may be able to prescribe you some Hormone Replacement Therapy or other medication to help you manage your symptoms. If your mood is low you they may prescribe you with anti-depressants or offer you Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- You have symptoms of the menopause and are under 40 years of age and not pregnant. There are blood tests they can run to see what is happening
- You are bleeding during or after sex or have any other worries about your health
- Your periods are so heavy that you are soaking through tampons or pads more than every 1-2 hours or so.
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.