The Change Is Here . . .
There are few things in life that are certain but for women, menopause is a ‘dead cert’.
A natural part of ageing, menopause is quite literally when your periods stop (for 12 consecutive months). Your ovaries no longer produce eggs and your hormone levels associated with reproduction start to decline. But this decline in hormones isn’t just related to reproductive ability as hormones play a part in other body systems and functions. We have oestrogen receptors all over our body so any decline in this hormone can affect our body in many ways.
Being in the 50+ age bracket, I find myself experiencing changes and dealing with some less than welcome symptoms. As women spend about half of their life post menopause and possibly up to 10 years or more experiencing the symptoms, I am starting to research this to understand how I can deal with it, but I have to admit to being a bit bamboozled by the subject especially as everybody’s experience is different. There is so much information to navigate but there are some excellent resources that I would like to recommend. And people are starting to talk more openly about the subject with the World Health Organisation designating October as World Menopause Month. Plus the 18th of October is World Menopause Day, so the media and social media will be full of messages and information.
What I’m learning so far
The average age of menopause in the UK is 51 but it can start anytime from 40 years
Perimenopause is the time before menopause when you experience menopausal symptoms but are still having periods
8 out of 10 women in the UK will experience symptoms
We spend over half our lives post menopause
There are lots of effective treatments available and your GP or a menopause specialist can help to identify what would work for you
There are 34 common symptoms of menopause which has made me stop and think. So often it is easy to dismiss changes in your health and wellbeing that could actually be due to perimenopause or menopause.
The 34 Symptoms of Menopause
So much of this I put down to just the ageing process, so it’s interesting to reflect on what might really be happening. A good piece of advice that I have picked up is to keep a diary and make a note of things that you notice about yourself. This is really useful if you decide to speak to your GP or a menopause specialist about what you are going through.
Hot Flushes - Night sweats - Irregular periods - Mood changes
Breast pain/soreness - Decreased libido or desire for sex
Vaginal dryness - Headaches - Tingling extremities
Burning mouth - Changes in taste - Fatigue - Bloating
Digestive changes - Joint pain - Muscle tension and aches
Electric shock sensations - Itchiness - Sleep disturbance
Difficulty concentrating - Memory lapses - Thinning hair
Brittle Nails - Weight Gain - Stress incontinence - Dizzy spells
Allergies - Osteoporosis - Irregular heartbeat - Irritability
Changes in body odour - Depression - Anxiety - Panic Disorder
For a light hearted look at this not very funny subject, copy the following link into your browser for the Menopause Rhapsody – a Bohemian Rhapsody Parody.
As a keen wild swimmer in all temperatures, I often joke that I have my own central heating. But it’s no joke.
The hot flushes or flashes that I experience creep up without warning with a suffocating heat that seeps into every cell of my skin on my arms, head, face and chest. I feel lucky that I don’t seem to have these heat surges during the day, but I notice that I can’t bear to wear anything too thick or clingy preferring instead strappy tee shirts and light cotton tops. However, my hot flushes happen mostly at night and this guarantees me a night of broken sleep.
Some of the things I do to combat the hot flushes include;
Sleeping with the window open to ensure plenty of cool fresh air
Wearing light night clothes
I splash my face with cold water before bed - the colder the better!
I’ve cut down on caffeine and switched to decaf coffee during the day. My evening drinks are herbal to encourage relaxation and sleepiness.
A tip that I read about recently is a breathing technique to reduce hot flushes which goes something like this;
Imagine you are holding a baby and with your shoulders relaxed, inhale gently so that your abdomen widens
As you exhale, purse your lips and very gently blow over the baby’s hair. Allow your abdomen to narrow as you exhale so that the baby’s hair barely moves. And at the same time imagine you can feel the breath flowing away and past your legs. Smile as you exhale.
Practice inhaling and exhaling like this when you feel a hot flush stating and see if you are able to stop some of the hot flushes.
(discovered by Dr Erick Peer San Francisco State University, USA)
Certainly worth trying.
Reflexology and Menopause
According to The British Menopause Society, 95% of women would try alternative therapies before HRT.
I am pleased to have completed additional training in Reflexology for Menopause, a course by Sally Earlham accredited by the Association of Reflexologists. This considers the 5 pillars of menopause health and how reflexology treatments can help to support menopausal women by optimising physical and emotional wellbeing.
There are several research studies that have been done that reference menopausal symptoms.
Commenting on stress, a research study demonstrated that “Chronically elevated cortisol increases the likelihood of severe menopausal symptoms” (Cagnacci et al, 2011. Menopause, 18, 3, 273-8)
Helping the body to relax and reduce stress could help to ease the symptoms and reflexology is most certainly a profoundly relaxing treatment.
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats. A study comparing reflexology and foot massage produced a statistically significant reduction in hot flushes and nights sweats in the reflexology group. This study looked at the effect of foot reflexology applied to women between age 40 and 60 on vasomotor complaints and quality of life. (Author Gozuyesil E, Baser M)
The effects of foot reflexology on depression during menopause – A randomised controlled clinical trial. This found that foot reflexology techniques can be effective for decreasing women’s depression during menopause. However due to some limitations with this study, more studies are required to verify the results.
The effects of foot reflexology on fatigue, sleep and pain – a systematic review and meta-analysis. This concluded that foot reflexology is a useful intervention to relieve fatigue and promote sleep
Reflexology is a complementary therapy and not a substitute for medical treatment. Reflexologists do not claim to diagnose, cure or prescribe and if you have any health concerns you should contact your GP
Where To Look For Help
Menopause is different for every woman and some of the challenge is knowing where to look for help or answers. It is a complex subject that many feel has been ignored, dismissed, or misunderstood and many women feel that their concerns of the changes they are struggling with are not listened to.
This is starting to change as it is being talked about on daytime TV and radio and raised in parliament by MPs such as Rachel Maclean and Carolyn Harris, the latter who pledged in June of this year a ‘menopause revolution’
I’ve looked at all manner of different websites and organisations but I would really recommend the following;
The book ‘The New Hot’ by Meg Matthews is an honest explanation of Meg Matthew’s experience of menopause and entertaining to read. It has a section for the man in your life too so that he can start to understand what you are experiencing. It’s also available on Audible which is how I prefer to read my books
·Dr Louise Newson is a leading UK menopause specialist who talks a lot of sense and campaigns to help women with the menopause;
'Preparing for The Perimenopause and Menopause’ by Dr Louise Newson is a new book published by Penguin that simply explains the whole subject
www.mymenopausedoctor.co.uk is a brilliant website with articles covering just about every question you might want to ask about menopause
Davina McCall did a very good documentary for Channel 4 about menopause which looks at how she really thought she was ‘losing it’ with her experience of mental fog, hot flushes and depression. It exposes the lack of understanding and the taboos that exist and first aired on Channel 4 on 12th May 2021
To mark World Menopause Day on 18th October, The British Menopause Society and ITN Productions have produced a programme presented by Louis Minchin called ‘Menopause, The Change is Here.
The programme will focus on the impact that menopausal symptoms have on women’s health and careers aiming to correct the myth and misinformation that exists about menopause
I will definitely be watching!
The British Menopause Society www.bms.org.uk
Association of Reflexologists www.aor.org.uk