Menopause is an inevitable natural phenomenon in all women’s lives. It is not a disease and therefore doesn’t have to be ‘treated’.
However, many women struggle with symptoms and find their quality of life is improved with advice and some interventional assistance. The average age of menopause is 52, but it can happen earlier or later. Menopause actually means “last period” and the term perimenopause refers to the time period before and after menstruation stops.
Perimenopause can last for years, and symptoms commonly occur between 45-55 yrs.
Historically, women have suffered in silence, thinking that the inconveniences of maturity were unchangeable. But this kind of ‘martyrdom’ is no longer necessary, when there are a number of simple options available (and not all hormonal).
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The symptoms women experience are due to the hormonal changes in their bodies during this time period; primarily a drop in the amount of oestrogen. Oestrogen plays a crucial role in various parts of the body, therefore a variety of symptoms can be experienced which can differ between each woman. Furthermore, the severity of menopause symptoms also varies among women.
Common symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Muscle and joint aches
- Tender breasts
- Emotional changes
- Loss of libido (interest in sexual activity)
- Sleep disturbances
Recognising some of these symptoms can help women ascribe what they are experiencing to menopause rather than attributing their symptoms to an underlying medical condition; it can certainly reassure women when they know what to expect in this time period. A consultation with your GP at Parkhill Medical Centre is beneficial to discuss any symptoms you are experiencing, and to alleviate any concerns you may have.
Many women accept these changes and don’t seek assistance, as they may be unaware that there are simple and safe interventions which can be life-changing.
Depending on your medical history, lifestyle and health beliefs, there will definitely be something which can help alleviate these symptoms.
Individual treatments plans can be decided using a shared decision-making approach, after discussion, between you and one of our doctors.
Time to check your cardiovascular and bone health:
At this time of menopause, women need to have a comprehensive risk assessment for their health. Modifiable risk factors (e.g. weight, lifestyle) and non-modifiable risk factors (e.g. genetics) are very important in the mature woman, as it is at this age that risk factors start to show. Menopause can have broader impacts on your health, including an increased risk of osteoporosis and a decline in cardiovascular health. It is a crucial time to develop a good relationship with your GP and ensure you are having appropriate preventative health checks.
- Menopause itself needs no treatment, but treatment may be required to control its signs and symptoms. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits and may recommend any of the following depending on your condition.
- Menopausal Hormone Therapy: Your doctor may recommend treatment with hormones including estrogen and/or progestin for your hot flashes and bone loss. It may also help prevent cardiovascular problems if started within five years of menopause.
- Vagina estrogen: Small doses of estrogen in the form of cream, pills, or rings can help you manage vaginal dryness, urinary symptoms, and discomfort during intercourse.
- Antidepressants: Low-dose antidepressants can help you manage hot flashes when Menopausal Hormone Therapy is not advisable for you, and will also help improve your mood.
- Medication treatment: You may also be prescribed medications to reduce your bone loss and risk for fractures.
Some of these lifestyle remedies can also help you reduce or prevent the symptoms of menopause.
- Cool off hot flashes by drinking cold water or staying in a cool room. Identify factors that trigger your hot flashes, like hot beverages, alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods, and try to avoid them.
- Use water-based vaginal lubricants to help you with vaginal dryness and discomfort.
- Reduce stress, get adequate sleep, eat healthy, stay active and don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly. Certain exercises called Kegel exercises can help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve urinary incontinence.