Written by: Anne Marie Fogarty, RGN
Menopause – Everything You Need to Know
As we grow older, we need to accept that our bodies will change. While we find that our hair begins to turn grey, we get a few more lines and wrinkles on our skin, and we can’t seem to lose weight as quickly as we could decades ago, there are also hormonal changes going on inside our bodies, especially for women.
Once women reach a certain age, they go through menopause or the ‘change’ as it is sometimes informally known. Going through menopause can be scary; it can lead to unpleasant symptoms, side effects, and strain on marriages, relationships, and families.
The good news for any woman out there going through menopause, however, is that you do not need to suffer alone. Help is available and can be extremely beneficial as well.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know about menopause and the help that is available.
What is menopause?
In order to help deal with something, we first need to understand it better.
Menopause is a natural part of ageing and occurs when a woman stops having her periods due to lower hormone levels. While ages can, of course, vary, typically, women go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.
Some women will go through menopause early, either naturally or due to things such as surgery to remove the ovaries, birth control, or severe hormonal imbalances.
There is also something known as perimenopause, which occurs when you experience the symptoms of menopause while still having periods. A person usually experiences menopause when they go for 12 months without a single period.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Going through menopause can put a strain on virtually all aspects of your life. This is largely due to the sometimes severe side effects that go with it.
Common menopause side effects and symptoms include:
One of the main reasons why menopause puts a strain on relationships is because of the fact that it can lead to mood swings.
Because of changes and fluctuations in hormone levels, women going through menopause often experience irritability, depression, anxiety, stress, and low mood in general.
Hot flushes and night sweats
Again, as a result of the physiological changes taking place inside their body, women going through menopause often experience random hot flushes during the day and severe night sweats while in bed.
Insomnia is another common symptom of menopause, particularly due to night sweats. A lack of sleep can also lead to an even lower mood.
Loss of/low libido
Because of low hormone levels such as Oestrogen and testosterone (women do produce small amounts of testosterone) can result in low libido or even a complete loss of sex drive.
On top of that, the declining hormone levels can result in vaginal tightness and/or dryness, which can make intercourse uncomfortable. Again, this can put a strain on marriages and intimate relationships.
What help is out there for women going through menopause?
As well as understanding the symptoms of menopause, we must realise that help is out there, so none of us needs to suffer alone.
Here are some of the most popular organisations offering professional menopause help:
The Menopause Charity
The Menopause Charity is one of the most respected organisations in existence when it comes to helping and support for those affected by menopause.
The organisation helps to educate others on menopause; it campaigns and raises awareness for the cause. It helps women take control of their hormones and understand hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Menopause Support is another popular organisation created to help women and others affected by menopause.
Menopause Support offers private consultations for individuals going through menopause, along with menopause awareness training for businesses and other organisations.
Finally, we have the National Health Service or the NHS for short.
The NHS has numerous trained experts in women’s health who specialise in menopause and other similar conditions. They can provide HRT, counselling, regular checkups, and contact information for other support groups and networks.
For more information, take a look at our menopause patient education handout.