The menopause is the name given to the time when a woman’s periods stop, the end of menstruation. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘the change of life’. This happens because the ovaries stop producing hormones and ovulation (egg production) stops. Surgical removal of the ovaries also causes the menopause. A woman is said to have reached the menopause once she has not had a period for one year. After this point, she can be described as ‘post-menopausal’. The time leading up to the menopause is known as the ‘peri-menopause’. The average age of the natural menopause is around 50-51 years. Menopause before the age of 45 years is regarded as early.
What are the symptoms of the Menopause?
Some women will not get any symptoms but most women will get a few symptoms. The range of symptoms that are experienced are due to the changing hormone levels.
The commonest symptom as the menopause approaches is a change in the menstrual cycle – sometimes the periods get closer together and sometimes they get less frequent.
Other common symptoms are:
• Hot Flushes
• Night Sweats
• Vaginal Dryness
• Joint Aches & Pains
• Sleep Disturbance
• Mood Changes
• Bladder Irritability
What can you do to help yourself manage the Menopause?
Lifestyle changes can make a difference!
There are several simple things that you can do to help yourself. The menopause is the perfect time to look at your diet and lifestyle and aim to make some positive changes which may ease some menopause symptoms.
- Eat a balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D
- Increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre and try to cut back on saturated fats and caffeine
- Take weight bearing physical activity such as walking and aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least five times a week
- Keep within a healthy weight range
- Stop smoking! Stopping will improve the health of your heart and your bones
- Keep within recommended alcohol intakes – not more than 14 units per week for women
- Get your blood pressure checked out to make sure it is within safe limits
For further information download Menopause, The Facts from www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) replaces the hormones that the ovaries stop making. It is usually given as tablets or a patch. HRT is not necessary for every woman it is important that you have the necessary information to help you make a choice. HRT can be discussed in more detail with your GP, Practice Nurse or at the Menopause clinic if you have been referred by your GP.
Some people have found that alternative medicines have helped their menopause symptoms. However care must be taken when using some herbal remedies as they can cause side effects and may interact with prescribed medicines. If you suffer from any medical condition, you should consult your GP or Practice Nurse for advice before commencing any alternative medicines. For further information check out www.menopausematters.co.uk
Other things to consider!
- Contraception.Women continue to be fertile after their periods have stopped, so it is important to use contraception, as an unwanted pregnancy would be distressing. Contraception should be continued until at least 2 years after the last natural period if under 50yrs and 1 year past the last natural period if over 50yrs
- Cervical screening. Smear tests are offered every 5 years from the age of 50yrs until age 64yrs. It is important to continue to attend for this even after your periods have stopped.
- Breast screening. Women from the age of 50yrs are offered breast screening every 3 years, you should attend for this. It is important to learn how to check your breasts for lumps and irregularities, check out www.breakthrough.org.uk ( about breasts-cancer/touch-look-check)
If you would like to discuss any symptoms of the menopause, you could speak to your GP or Practice Nurse or ask your GP to refer you to the menopause clinic which is run by the Sexual Health Department at The Gatehouse, Irvine.
Menopause matters – www.menopausematters.co.uk
Menopause NHS Choices – www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/
Women’s Health Concern Ltd – www.womens-health-concern.org
National Osteoporosis Society – www.nos.org.uk
Checking your breasts – www.breakthrough.org.uk/about-breasts