Emma reminds us how important talking about the mysterious menopause or perimenopause is for women’s physical & mental health.
What is menopause?
In simple terms, the menopause is when our hormone levels begin to change and we stop having periods.
It is of course a little more complex than that in reality and is a hugely impactful transitional stage for a woman, in what is usually expected to be midlife, but can affect women at a younger age also. Generally speaking, on average, women are expected to experience menopause between 45 and 55, but this can vary hugely from woman to woman and each woman’s experience of menopause will be unique to them.
Signs you’re entering perimenopause
Most GP’s will consider a woman to be experiencing the menopause once they have not had a period for twelve months. And interestingly if you google for a description of what menopause is, it will describe it as such.
Recent research however, has shown that the perimenopause, which is considered the lead up to the full menopause, can be a big transitional time for women, having a very real impact on not only our physical health, but also our mental health, relationships and work.
People talk about general symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats, irregular periods, but the symptoms actually experienced are far reaching and can be hard to identify as perimenopausal. Interestingly, the main symptoms women first see their GP for are anxiety, depression & sleep problems yet on average women can wait more than 12 months for a diagnosis.
Other, possibly less known about menopause symptoms can include:
- Joint pain
- Bleeding gums
- Brain fog
- Memory issues
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of libido
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Skin changes
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal Dryness
- Changes to heart health
- Changes to blood pressure
These symptoms can start many years before our periods stop. One of the reasons for such varying symptoms is that menopause is not quite as simple as stated in the opening paragraph, its not just about our periods stopping. Menopause sends our hormone levels into chaos and disruption to our hormone levels will have varying affects on each individual and can have a very real impact on our mental health.
Menopause is still shrouded in a bit of mystery within the medical world and support around the issue is not that accessible. One reason possibly being that it is still considered such a sensitive, discrete subject. This can make it incredibly isolating for women and difficult for us to access appropriate support.
With menopause affecting ALL women, we need to be able to talk about it more and access the right information and support when we need it. Forums and online support groups can be a great source of information and understanding. Sometimes chatting with someone that can relate can help us feel less alone.
When to go to your GP
If you are experiencing low mood or high anxiety, whether related or unrelated to Menopause, please do check out the resources available on this blog.
If you are concerned about how menopause might impact you, or are experiencing any changes to your physical or mental health, reach out to a GP and ask for their help.
Other Helpful Resources
Pausitivity.com’s support pack may be a helpful resource to browse before you make an appointment with a health professional. It is a subject everyone needs to get more informed about, talk more about and we need to get better at asking for help when we need it.
Pausitivity’s Menopause Support Pack includes (free download):
- Symptom Tracker
- Ask the Doctor (questions to make the most of your visit).
- Self-care tips to help balance hormones & create your very best health.
- Helpful resources for knowledge, advice & support
- How to approach support for menopause in the workplace
- Pausitivity Poll Statistics: to understand WHY you should #KnowYourMenopause as soon as possible, take action.
- A #KnowYourMenopause poster to pin up and/or share to help others on their journey.
Reach out for Help and Support
At a Menopause Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss menopause. In the below video Rachel Weiss describes the Menopause Cafe project.
This year Cafe’s featured in Larne & Belfast but it would be great to see more of these taking place across the country. If you agree, why not host your own Menopause Café? It’s inexpensive, simple and fun.
From time to time local women’s centres will run short courses, workshops or talks on the Menopause. I’d encourage you to link in with your local centre and enquire about the services they offer. If they do not have any current programme for Menopause specifically you may find that other services may be useful for meeting other women with similar experiences, or availing of services like counselling, mindfulness, yoga, personal development, mentorship etc.