Menopause is officially when you have not a period for over 12 months. It’s a milestone in every woman’s life that marks the end of one stage and the beginning of another. You need as many tools as possible to live well during this transition towards menopause and afterwards!
Previous generations of women suffered in silence in a patriarchal medical system, but no longer! Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is definitely worth considering. While not suitable for everyone for medical reasons or if you prefer to stay away from big pharma, HRT has many well-documented benefits and is now much more widely available than before. Many find natural remedies or other therapies help. And, of course, regular moving and breathing with awareness help in any situation!
Be aware too that there are many positives to menopause – read on!!
There are generally four stages of menopause and perhaps you are not aware of them:
Pre-menopause: the part of life before onset of any menopause symptoms. It’s when you think you will live forever and all that stuff is for much older people! But the years go by and suddenly you find you need to inform yourself.
Perimenopause: This is when the levels of female hormones – oestrogen and progesterone – start to fluctuate. You still have your menstrual cycle, but it may be different/less regular? Your hormone levels start to decrease steadily. This can cause a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, pelvic floor issues, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances – the list is even longer and varies from woman to woman. Some are lucky enough to have no symptoms during perimenopause and go straight to the next stage.
Menopause means that the ovaries have stopped producing eggs altogether and the monthly flow ceases. With that, you lose the possibility – even if only remote – that you could bear children. This can be emotional for some – you may have been unable to conceive or have had miscarriages or maybe you weren’t in the right place with right partner? Whether or not you have had children, life is still demanding and your energy is different! You may now have elderly parents to care for and perhaps teenagers to look after too. Your sense of self alters and you need to nurture yourself and your relationships with renewed focus.
Note that premature ovarian failure, pharmacological menopause or essential life-saving surgery can unfortunately cause sudden and unexpected menopause, making it more traumatic.
Post-menopause: Rest of your life after periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months. Menopausal symptoms can continue because your hormone levels are still unstable. Yes indeed the ‘rest of your life’ – it could be 30 or 40 years!
Whatever state of menopause you’re at but starting from NOW, the things you can do to make the most of your one precious life include:
- Regular movement – Pilates, yoga or gym; walking or cycling or swimming
- Adopting an attitude of gratitude and mindfulness; breathwork
- Staying hydrated and feeding yourself nutritious food
- Nurturing friendships and staying stimulated by new activities.
- Explore whether HRT is for you OR whether other therapies might support you – dong quai, black cohosh or Ayurvedic treatments are all worth trying!
And the good aspects of menopause …..
Caring less what others think!
After years of life experience, including the ups and downs of relationships, child-rearing and careers, you learn to prioritise what actually matters! You start to care less what others think and place more value on your own time and doing things you really enjoy.
No more periods, PMS or menstrual headaches
Yes – this is a big plus! Issues relating to your monthly cycle can make life miserable for a few days each month. Once the menopause transition is over, PMS and menstrual headaches end as hormones level out. Other discomforts creep in but can be managed!
Sex without pregnancy worries
Not worrying about contraception can be very freeing (note: 12 consecutive months without a period!!). Of course, lack of desire or loss of libido can occur during menopause, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Finding appropriate supports ( such as lubricants, HRT, romance and talking) means your sexual side doesn’t have to end with menopause!