It’s been called everything from “the change”, to “private summers” and even “mental pause”. If you’re Danish, menopause falls under the translation of “overgangsalder” which sounds as difficult to experience as it is to pronounce.
Call it what you will, but one fact remains: every woman worldwide will experience a transitional phase in life in which a natural decline in reproductive hormones leads to the cessation of menstruation.
Most women will begin to go through menopause between the ages of 45 to 55, with menopausal symptoms lasting anywhere from five years. For those less fortunate, symptoms could persist for up to 10 years.
Anything that occurs to a woman after this period is considered “post menopausal” – medically speaking – 12 months after they have experienced their last period.
Starts at 60 follower Glenda Picioane commented on our Facebook page: “It was the most horrific time of my life. I called it devilpause”.
Glenda is not alone in her assessment. In fact, according to the Australian Menopause Centre, “During menopause the majority of women will experience both emotional and physical symptoms.”
It’s a staggering thought considering it is an inevitable part of every woman’s life.
But there is some light amid the gloom. Let’s consider the symptoms, how we manage them and why we should rethink the ageing process.
Having no interest in sex or a decrease in libido is one of a slew of sypmtoms which occur during vaginial atrophy. Atrophic vaginitis, as it may also be known, occurs when estrogen levels drop after menopause. The lack of estrogen causes the vaginal walls to thin, dry out and become more fragile, which could lead to the following symptoms, According to Healthline:
Your GP can order tests to see if you have vaginal atrophy and can provide topical estrogen, HRT options or oral estrogen.
Another solution is a healthy sex life, with yourself or a partner (or two if that’s your thing). Sexual activity increases blood circulation to the area which makes for healthier sexual organs. If you’re looking for some treats to spice up your boudoir, (pun absolutely intended) we got you covered.
Give your underwear drawer a clear out. Wearing comfortable, cotton underwear, or underwear made from natural fibres, improves the air circulation around your nether regions. Tight-fitting clothes or synthetic fibres may breed an environment ripe for bacteria that can lead to nasty infections.
The dreaded middle-age spread. Some say it’s unavoidable, others say it’s genetics, and some will blame menopause. In reality, all of those things have a role to play with weight gain.
As we age, our bodies lose muscle tone and our metabolism slows down. If we continue to consume the same amount of calories, even if we still do the same amount of exercise, you will find that squeezing into your jeans may be considered a cardio workout in and of itself.
So where does menopause fit in? The hormonal changes in your body which result from menopause do not directly impact your weight gain, rather where the weight is distributed.
The Australian Menopause Society explains, “Contrary to popular belief, weight gain around menopause is mainly associated with your lifestyle and ageing. Hormonal changes of menopause do result in a change in body composition with increased fat and decreased muscle (thus no net change in weight) and can cause fat to settle in your abdomen rather than your hips, thighs and buttocks.”
Good old-fashioned nutrition and exercise. Eat well and move your body. Consuming a balanced, healthy diet will help maintain your weight, boost your energy levels, and will do wonders for your mental health.
“Clean eating” first entered the lexicon in 2007 and has proven to be a mainstay in how we think about food. Put simply, clean eating is the kind of food you’re used to eating growing up. Nothing processed, no additives, no preservatives and certainly nothing from a packet. It’s good food cooked from natural ingredients.
Then there’s the exercise component. To keep your body in tip-top shape, you don’t need to train like a movie star. If you can manage 30 minutes of walking every day, you are on your way to a healthier you. To increase your muscle tone, resistance training will help you reach your fitness goals much faster.
And finally, consider a dietary supplement such as marketplace protein powder.
According to a peer reviewed study by Grace Weiwei Pien, M.D., M.S.C.E. “Postmenopausal women are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea compared with premenopausal women”.
Sleep apnea can be caused by a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels in postmenopausal women, leading to sleep disturbances.
Another cause for a poor night’s sleep is night sweats and hot flushes (more on that later).
This is something our Starts at 60 readers know all too well. Sonja Bester says: “Been suffering now for nine years. Hot flushes and night sweats are awful. Also I only manage about five to six hours’ sleep where I used to sleep really well. Tried all sorts of medication but nothing helps. I almost wish I was still ovulating.”
This is a very common problem and once again it’s those pesky hormones. Estrogen helps to regulate sweat glands and when there is a drop in those levels, your body has to work much harder to regulate your internal body heat. Hence, waking up in a pool of sweat.
There are a range of solutions women can try from HRT – to rebalance those pesky hormones which rage more wildly at night – to more natural remedies.
Many experts advise women to avoid spicy food, caffeine and alcohol, particularly before bed. Consider the temperature of your bedroom as well. Is it cool enough? Is your bedding, and night clothes, made from natural fibres? Are you relaxed and comfortable? There are many free apps which assist with attaining and maintaining great sleep. Some women swear by a daily yoga and meditation practice. Others are devotees of products such as natural oils.
Fluctuating hormones can cause a woman’s temperature to dramatically, and suddenly rise. Starts at 60 reader Sue Davis said: “I went through menopause at 41, am 63 now with hot flushes, mood swings, depression…it’s just awful. I hate hot weather, it makes me get sooo hot and I perspire from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. I look like I always have wet hair. It’s awful.”
Just because women are going through a difficult personal period, doesn’t mean they’ve lost their sense of humour. According to A Way With Words radio, women have a range of terms to describe hot flushes including “short private vacation in the tropics”, “temperature tantrum” and “my inner child is playing with matches”. In fact, retaining your sense of humour is one of the best things you can do. As well as deploying similar measures to those outlined for poor sleep, consider our marketplace organic, caffeine free tea tonic.
Proving that for some women, menopause can be the gift that just keeps on giving, depression and anxiety have also been linked to the change of life. Some women mourn the closed chapter of their reproductive life, even if they’ve had all the children they want. Others are so severely affected by lack of sleep and hot flushes, it carves an impact on their lives.
Depression and anxiety symptoms do not manifest in all women, and there are always solutions.
Starts at 60 reader Sue Hobbs says: “I just sailed through with no symptoms. I realise how lucky I am.”
For those not so fortunate, the remedies mentioned above can go a long way to assisting you with any menopausal mental health issues. Start first by talking with your GP who, if your depression and anxiety are severe, may consider placing you on a next-generation antidepressant medication. Not only do some medications ease your mental health issues, there is some research to suggest they could ease your menopausal symptoms as well. Cultivate a good support network and be open about your feelings. Consider some healing crystals, such as those found in our marketplace bracelet for depression.
According to a Reuters article, Yale Medical School has conducted a study primarily designed to assess how vaginal atrophy, which may include dryness, irritation, itching or pain, impacted participants’ relationships.
The web-based questionnaire also explored other menopause symptoms and examined whether the severity of these difficulties matched what people had expected to experience.
“In societies where age is more revered and the older woman is the wiser and better woman, menopausal symptoms are significantly less bothersome,” lead study author Dr. Mary Jane Minkin has told Starts at 60.
“Where older is not better, many women equate menopause with old age, and symptoms can be much more devastating.”
Does this mean that menopause symptoms are a state of mind? Or perhaps that women who feel supported by society don’t feel the impact as much? Either way, we will leave you this thought from the Women’s Health Network about the view indigenous cultures have on this phase of life.
“Across Indigenous cultures, from the Maori in New Zealand to the Iroquois Indians, post-menopausal women are community leaders with considerable power and status. To these people, menopause itself is the transition between being a member of the community at large to becoming a spiritual elder.
Wise women have earned this leadership role because women have greater “reproductive” success if, in middle age, we cease production of new children and focus on investing in our children’s children. This in turn impacts the population and success of the entire community.”
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IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.