Am I Starting Menopause?
This month (October) is Menopause Awareness Month and the 18th is World Menopause Day, led by the International Menopause Society. The purpose of this month and day is to raise widespread awareness and educate women and professionals on support and treatment options to help improve the health and wellbeing of women across the planet. Menopause symptoms can be severe and have a big detrimental impact on those affected. Education is the key for women to know what to expect and know where and how to get support if and when they need it.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the beginning of menopause. It usually starts in the late 30s or early 40s. It is the transition period from the fertile reproductive period to the non-fertile menopausal period. There are no clearly defined limits to perimenopause but it usually lasts for about 4 years (stretching to as many as 8-20 years in some).
The end of perimenopause is marked by the day of menopause.
Symptoms of perimenopause
- Irregular bleeding patterns
- Hot flashes
- Poor sex drive
- Watery discharge
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Sleep problems
What is menopause?
Menopause is the end of monthly menstrual bleeding. It usually happens in the late 40s or early 50s. During the menopause, the hormonal signallers which tell the uterus to shed its lining are in much shorter supply and estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly and menstrual bleeding ends.
The menopause is defined as the end of 1 year without menstrual bleeds and is actually a single point in time/ single day. Any time after this is referred to as post-menopausal.
Symptoms of menopause
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Watery vaginal discharge
- Urinary problems
- Joint pain
- Back pain
- Brain fog and memory loss
The difference between perimenopause and menopause
- Perimenopause means irregular menstrual bleeding while menopause is the total lack of menstrual bleeding.
- Hormone levels may be normal during perimenopause but estrogen and progesterone drop rapidly during the menopause.
- Perimenopause is a period of time while menopause is only a single day/single point in time.
Treatment and support for menopause
The main treatment for menopausal symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT replaces the hormones that are missing due to the menopause. Most menopausal symptoms are caused by low estrogen. HRT is extremely effective at relieving menopausal symptoms and is available in many forms like tablets, skin patches, implants or gels and creams. HRT can help relieve symptoms like hot flashes, brain fog , joint pain, mood swings and vaginal dryness. HRT can also help prevent bone thinning which can lead to fractures (which is more common after menopause).
Other treatments and lifestyle changes can be implemented depending on the symptoms experienced. Wearing light clothing, having cool showers or losing excess weight can all help to ease hot flashes. You might notice triggers like alcohol or caffeine so avoiding these triggers can also be helpful. For mood swings, easing stress and doing meditation or yoga can be helpful in settling your mind. Talking therapies might also be useful. For vaginal dryness/ vaginal atrophy estrogen cream or pessaries can be prescribed to apply directly to your vagina to help ease symptoms. Vaginal dryness can be so severe but is often easily treated. Using vaginal lubricants is also useful if sex is uncomfortable.
The menopause can be a confusing and exhausting time. Without proper education and support women can feel so alone. Did you know we actually deliver Menopause in the Workplace courses to businesses around the UK? It's not uncommon for high flying women to leave their jobs when approaching the menopause through lack of support and struggling with symptoms. We give women the education support they need and deserve so they can understand what their menopause and where they can get support if they need it. If you're interested in one of our women's healthcare courses (we can also deliver pelvic floor education and mental health first aid courses) for you business or where you work then don't hesitate to get in touch at email@example.com.
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