Due to a number of requests I’ve decided to write a blog about ‘the menopause’. This is a subject that really interests me as I am very soon to be on the wrong side of 45! My periods have started to come closer together and I suspect that this is the beginning of the end! So I am keen to make this transition as smoothly as possible.
What is the menopause?
The menopause is when your periods have stopped completely for 12 months – it actually means the end of menstrual periods.
The perimenopause is the period of time leading up to the natural menopause. When you are having periods your ovaries are producing oestrogen, progersterone and eggs. During the perimenopause stage your ovaries gradually produce less of these and eventually the ovaries stop working and your periods stop. You are classed as being postmenopausal if you have not had a period for over 12 months.
At what age do you get the menopause?
Most women will experience a natural menopause when their periods stop around the age of 51 years. Although, there are some women who will experience this many years earlier or later than this time. It is also possible for women to experience a drug or surgery induced menopause, but that is for another blog!
How do you know if you are becoming perimenopausal?
Due to the fluctuation and reduction of oestrogen some women experience unwanted symptoms during the perimenopause and menopause. Such as hot flushes/flashes, sweats, low mood, joint and muscle pain, vaginal dryness, irregular bleeding and low sex drive. This is not an exhaustive list!
It’s difficult to diagnose and UK doctors are now advised to follow recommendations published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellnece in 2015 (NICE).
Firstly NICE recommend that each woman is treated as an individual in regards tothe diagnosis, investigation and management of the menopause. Which is nice to hear! Then they recommend the following for the diagnosis (WITHOUT laboratory tests) in otherwise healthy women over the age of 45 years with menopausal symptoms:
- perimenopause based on vasomotor symptoms (such as hot flushes and sweats) and irregular periods
- menopause in women who have not had a period for at least 12 months and are not using hormonal contraception
- menopause based on symptoms in women without a uterus.
Will you definitely get adverse symptoms such as hot flushes or mood changes?
Not at all. Each woman will have a different experience. The menopause is a natural biological process and many women do not experience any problems and do not know that they have been perimenopausal until their periods have actually stopped.
Your lifestyle can greatly affect your transition through the menopause. Adverse symptoms are more likely to be experienced by women who smoke, use recreational drugs, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, do not do enough exercise, have a poor diet or have high levels of stress.
The menopause can be seen as a positive journey and for many women it is seen as a time of new beginnings. Women can stop using contraception and this means the removal of the fear of getting pregnant. And in some cultures post menopausal women are respected for their knowledge and their status in their communities change during this time.
Saying that, due to the reduction of oestrogen in your body you do have an increased risk of conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease.