6 things to know about the menopause
The menopause is a natural part of ageing, and occurs when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to have children. It’s a gradual process which happens over months or years.
6 quick facts about the menopause
- The menopause is caused by changes in hormone levels which take place as a woman gets older.
- Menopausal symptoms include hot flushes, mood changes, memory problems and changes in sex drive.
- The length of time that symptoms last for varies between individuals, but averages about 4 years.
- Treatment is available to help with symptoms if you want it.
- A healthy diet and regular exercise, alongside simple behavioural changes, can improve some symptoms.
- Talking helps – friends, family and professionals can give support and guidance.
Why does the menopause happen?
The menopause is a normal part of the life cycle, where levels of the hormone oestrogen decline with age, so periods become less frequent and eventually stop altogether. This means a woman is no longer able to get pregnant.
What are the symptoms?
A change in the pattern of your periods is the first sign of the menopause. Other symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, memory problems, vaginal dryness and changes in sex drive.
Symptoms vary between individuals – some women will experience mild symptoms while others may have symptoms that have a big impact on their everyday life.
I was having a lot of hot flushes and they were really unbearable at first. Gradually I learnt how to cope with them. I gave up alcohol while the symptoms were at their worst, lost a bit of weight, stopped wearing clothes made from man-made fibres and started carrying a flannel, talcum powder and deodorant with me.
How long does the menopause last?
Symptoms of the menopause can start months or even years before periods stop completely. They usually continue for around 4 years after your last period, though some women’s symptoms continue for much longer.
The menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but it’s very difficult to predict when it will take place in an individual.
Are there treatments for the menopause?
If your symptoms are severe, there’s treatment available which could help. This includes hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which replaces oestrogen to alleviate symptoms, creams for vaginal dryness, and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to help with mood changes. Speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits of different treatments.
What can I do to help myself?
To help you manage hot flushes, simple things like wearing light clothing, using a fan and keeping your bedroom cool could help.
If you’re struggling with your mood, consider trying self-help measures like relaxation, getting enough sleep and staying active. Regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet can also help to improve menopausal symptoms.
Who can I talk to?
Though there’s still stigma and embarrassment around the menopause, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and there’s support out there.
Try to be open about your symptoms with your partner, family and friends – it can help them to understand what you’re going through and could reduce any embarrassment about symptoms.
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 of the menopause.
Support from your doctor
If you have questions about treatment, or if you’re struggling emotionally or physically, it’s important that you speak to your doctor.