So many women’s issues are seemingly on the public agenda, and yet when the time comes to experience them, we discover they are actually shrouded in mystery or shame. Or both. Menopause is one. It is often bundled into a hurried conversation around ‘hot flushes’ and ‘HRT’, maybe with an aging joke on the side, and an embarrassed titter.
Menopause is the most natural occurance that every ovulating woman will experience in some form. It is the ovaries saying ‘your reproductive years are over’, and it marks the end of The Period.
Contrary to popular myth, only 75% of menopausal women experience hot flushes; not everyone has hormone replacement therapy; many women will have a trouble free menopause. For those that do suffer, yes, the symptoms can be disruptive and challenging, or completely life altering in the worst way. Finding the right support is critical, and can make a world of difference.
Menopause Facts :
- The average age for women to hit Meno is 51 (yes, it’s young)
- Onset can certainly be earlier, and may be brought on by illness or medications tampering with our systems, or smoking, obesity or hereditary factors.
- It can also be later.
- Symptoms may go well beyond the (sometimes) visible hot flush, to include a long-list of physical and emotional or mental issues:
- Depression or depressed mood
- Brain fogging
- Sleep problems
- Need to pee frequently
- Tender breasts
- Weight gain (maybe due to other life changes also)
- A dry vagina and reduced interest in sex
- Aching or painful joints, or
All in a day’s work?
What can you do about it?
Talk about it! Share your thoughts with friends, let your partner know what is going on with you, and seek out reliable info from places like the Australasian Menopause Society.
Studies have shown that taking care of yourself with mindful breathing and relaxation techniques can help (plus minimising other stress factors in life will help clear the decks for anything Meno throws at you). CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) will help with your depression or anxiety too, and has also shown to be useful in shaping the experience and helping with other symptoms. Find a counsellor that specialises in women’s issues – online counselling from the comfort of your home can be a huge support – no added stress of finding a practice and getting there!
Many MANY women are enjoying wonderful sex and intimacy while there is breath in their body.
What is often overlooked in the conversation around menopause, also, is that it often collides with a bunch of other changes women experience in their late 40s and 50s. Partners taking off for apparent greener pastures, kids leaving home, career change (or a need to start), parents ageing and needing care. If it becomes overwhelming or chaotic, support is out there. Either talk with a professional counsellor who can help you make sense and peace, or jump into an online support group. You’ll likely find similar stories (just be aware that spending too much in these places can one day feel like drowning too – info overload, and not always positive which ultimately can exacerbate emotional weariness).
Note that perimenopause (the period leading up to full menopause) can see the above symptoms plaguing you before your period shows signs of stopping, so stay tuned to your self.
What do I do if I think I’m in menopause?
If you’re observing change and any of the above symptoms, or you’re worried about what’s going on with you – and think you might be in peri-or full menopause – it’s GP time. Choose someone whose online profile shows they specialise in women’s health. It raises your chances of getting the answers you seek, and will make a big difference to your whole menopause experience.
Your GP (or gynaecologist) can help with lifestyle tips to help with symptoms (although no guarantees, it’s a unique journey and things may or may not help) eg exercise (yoga has shown to be helpful, plus bone strengthening work), diet and tips to keep hot flashes as comfortable or ‘mild’ as possible – like avoiding smoking, alcohol and wearing certain clothing etc. Naturally your GP is first port for hormone therapy, and how low oestrogen can impact your body. That’s one that needs to watched for future bone health and more.
Your counsellor will support you emotionally and help with anxiety, self-esteem and any other issues that surface for you at this time. (See Worlds Colliding…)
Common questions haunting the 50 year old mind:
“Will I never want sex again?” You may go off sex, but not necessarily just because of hormones (refer above to Worlds Colliding), and not necessarily for ever, or at all. Many MANY women are enjoying wonderful sex and intimacy while there is breathe in their body. Again, your counsellor (with sexuality training) can help you if this is a challenging area of you. She can help you find a way to address it, that is comfortable for you.
“I’ve always had some or all of those symptoms – how do I know this is menopause?” It sounds like you could use some help regardless – time to see your GP and/or counsellor depending on your symptoms.
“How do I know it’s menopause when my periods have always been patchy and I always have brain fog?” Explore with trusted friends, and talk to the professionals.
“How do I know it’s menopause – I haven’t had a period for twenty years because of having children and using the Mirena” Good question. Your GP can keep an eye on you.
“How long does the whole thing take?” Different for everyone – but if you haven’t had a period for over a year, you are likely out of the woods. Keep talking to your GP if you’re concerned about ongoing physical symptoms.
“Should I have HRT?” That’s one for your GP. There is a lot of mixed info out there, so speak to one who knows.
“Everything’s shit and I can’t talk to anyone / No one understands / I don’t have the language / I feel embarrassed / I can’t talk to my partner/husband / It’s awkward.” Talk to a counsellor. She can help.