For many women that arrive at the menopause, whether earlier than expected or right on schedule, it can be a minefield of change, sometimes difficult to recognise, and often hard to live with.
Some women struggle during the perimenopause stage, when change occurs to the reproductive system and activity ceases, usually after 12 months without a period. Generally this starts for woman in their mid to late 40’s or as late as their 50’s but for some this can happen as early as the mid 30’s and can cause dramatic hormonal imbalances from fluctuations in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone . Some women may suffer the worst at this stage but for others the later stages of the full menopause can be when they experience their symptoms.
Unbelievably 72% of women say they do not know what the menopause is, while at least a quarter of us are lucky enough to have no symptoms at all. For the unfortunate 25 % of us that do suffer with severe symptoms of the menopause, it can be one hell of a ride that can on average last for up to 4 years!
At this natural cross roads in a woman’s life it can feel taboo to talk about what is happening and we know from research that a third of women don’t even speak to their GP’s but for those women who do confide in their Doctor around half will be prescribed antidepressants, while only 20% will go onto HRT in the hope of treating some of the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes
- Poor sleep
- Night sweats
- Poor concentration
- Stiff joints
- Vaginal dryness
- (Low libido)? Sex
- (Difficulty with) intimacy/ Issues?
- Dry hair
- Dry skin
- Loss of confidence
- Loss of self
- Inability to function
- Mental health problems
- Weight gain
- Being overwhelmed
- Heart disease
It’s not surprising, considering the list above, that half of menopausal women say that their mental health has suffered and 7 out of 10 women choose not to tell their employers, while a quarter of women say they would rather stay at home.
Most people reading this would agree that any sane person that suddenly started experiencing memory loss, anxiety, poor concentration, irritability, loss of confidence, anger, an inability to function and a general sense of feeling overwhelmed would struggle to carry out the simplest of tasks let alone be able to maintain healthy relationships and a balanced work and home life. This only fuels the fire and increases frustration, which can make it almost impossible to live a normal life. Partners are ill equipped to cope with the rollercoaster of emotions, work colleagues no longer trust your judgement or ability and friends don’t even recognise you. It can be a very lonely and scary place and one that we are in no way prepared for.
There needs to be a better education on what to expect and how women can help themselves. Guidance should also be provided for those living and working with women struggling with the menopause, at least to try and understand what is happening but also so that we can learn how to support our loved ones, friends and colleagues through this natural but sometimes impossible transition in their lives. For the 23% of women that say that their life lacks enjoyment, hopefully we can begin to help them feel alive again.
Rather surprisingly and in contrast to what we are lead to believe I am pleased to report that 90 % of women still want to have sex, which may please some if not all of our readers.
So now that we’ve covered the worst parts lets look at how we can help ourselves and enable menopausal women the world over to embrace this natural evolution.
There are many tried and tested ways to ease the symptoms of the menopause, one most obviously being Hormone Replacement Therapy as prescribed by your GP or women’s health consultant. This can be a welcome antidote to much of the suffering for some but not all women.
So many of us are unaware of the natural remedies and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, CBT, meditation, yoga, breathing, exercise, masturbation, vaginal oestrogen, Replens, yes and KY jelly lubricants, magnets, dietary changes such as removal of gluten, soy, alcohol, pork, dairy and supplements such as vitamin D, calcium, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy oils such as basil, lavender, anise, licorice, lemon, myrtle, clary sage, geranium, Chinese herbs, black cohosh, red clover, sage, star flower oil, evening primrose, wild yam, St johns wort, woman’s kind,
Of course it’s easy to forget that how we live can affect how we feel and vice versa. Lets not forget the very powerful medicine of talking, sharing and laughing with friends, colleagues and indeed loved ones, as this can do wonders for our self worth and help all us to remember that outside of our bodies there is a big wide world full of hope and wonder.