Menopause Symptoms are the stuff of nightmares, they are like stories that people talk about and you find yourself cringing and praying that you will never experience them!
At the age of 44, I find myself thinking about the menopause more frequently. Some of those whispers are starting to feel a bit more real and I’m not a fan!
What is the Menopause?
The NHS Website states the following:
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
I used to think that menopause was something that happened when you were much older, I never imagined that it could happen earlier until I watched the Davina McCall documentary.
If you haven’t watched it, you should definitely check it out, NB: you don’t have to be ‘older’ to watch it, it’s relevant! it’s currently available on Channel 4, you just need to create an account.
Here’s the link: Davina McCall Documentary
It blew me away (if you watched it, please let me know what you thought in the comments below), I couldn’t believe how little support women get in this country, how often menopause is either misdiagnosed or overlooked/dismissed by GPs!
It made me really angry and like many others, I shared my thoughts with the other women in my life. There was a huge debate on Social Media and a lot of women started to talk about their experiences. I started to learn more about different symptoms, about the different stages of the menopause and how symptoms differed from person to person.
I started to look outside of Social Media for more information and I came across a website called Hysterical Women – I read a guest post on there by Katie Taylor, founder of The Latte Lounge. Katie spoke about her experience with her GP when she first felt as if something wasn’t right. The doctor spoke to her for five minutes, diagnosed her with depression and sent her on her way with antidepressants!
Here is the article in full: All In My Mind
Make sure you check it out, it’s definitely worth a read!
I needed more information and I wanted to speak to people who I knew would give me their honest experiences, so I spoke to my sisters.
I have three sisters, (all of whom are older than me) and I knew that at least one of them had gone through menopause when she was younger than me. I asked them if they would mind contributing to this article and they agreed.
Sister 1: I was 42, I experienced memory loss, gained weight and I felt very anxious. I didn’t take HRT.
Sister 2: I started the menopause at aged 40, it took two years for a diagnosis! When you go through the menopause it takes a hold of your entire body and you feel as if you no longer have control. I experienced hot sweats, mood swings, memory loss, it’s all very overwhelming.
Then your doctor tells you that you are at risk of developing osteoporosis and likely to be in a wheelchair at the age of 50 if you don’t take HRT! I took a very low estrogen tablet for four years, then I managed my symptoms with diet and exercise.
Sister 3: I started perimenopause when I was 48, am still going through menopause now. My periods were erratic, sometimes heavy, slow or didn’t arrive at all. My last period was 2019. I experience night sweats and in the last month or so I’ve been having day sweats too, day sweats, night sweats, every fecking sweat! No HRT.
My mom also shared her experiences about the menopause, she was pregnant with me at the time (she was 38) and didn’t realise that she was experiencing menopausal symptoms, she just assumed it was the aftermath and giving birth to such a wonderful human being 😉
She went to the doctor some years later and was prescribed HRT tablets. I remember her taking HRT, I was 15 and intrigued by the little circle of different coloured tablets. She was on HRT for 20 years.
Let’s talk about some of the symptoms that you may experience and what we can do to combat them!
1. Weight Gain
This is one of the biggest issues with menopausal women – Your hormones heavily impact your ability to lose weight so you may find that your current exercise regime isn’t working anymore.
You may also find that the majority of your weight gain is around your middle section, which is one of the areas women tend to worry about the most.
The following statement is from the Better Health Channel:
Contributors to weight gain at menopause include declining oestrogen levels, age-related loss of muscle tissue and lifestyle factors such as diet and lack of exercise.
Try and focus on low impact exercise, increase your resistance training as this will help to improve your bone health (this years World Menopause Day theme is bone health) and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Have a look at your nutrition, increase your protein intake and up your intake of fruit and veg.
2. Night Sweats
I’ve started to experience these myself and they are not pleasant! You wake up covered in sweat and when you went to bed, you may have been freezing! Here are a few things that may help:
- Stay hydrated
- Wear cooler clothing to bed
- Keep a bottle of water next to your bed
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed
39.9% of women in the UK suffer from some form of incontinence, (that’s 1 in 3 women!) and over half of women over 50 suffer with some kind of bladder leakage. Your bladder is supported by your pelvic floor muscles and there are exercises that you can do to help strengthen the pelvic floor and reduce the risk of leakage.
I’ve listed some exercises below for you to try:
- Pelvic Tilts
- Glute Bridge
4. Memory Loss/Focus
All of my sisters experienced this and I’ve only recently realised that my own memory loss/lack of focus could be attributed to being perimenopausal. The menopause has got a lot to answer for!
Dr Louise Newson, GP and Menopause scientist and creator of the Balance App states the following in her Menopause and Me Booklet:
Brain fog: This is a collective term for symptoms such as memory slips, poor concentration, difficultly absorbing information and a feeling your brain is like ‘cotton wool’. Brain fog can not only present a challenge while at work, it can also affect the simplest of tasks like reading a book or listening to the radio.
Cardiovascular exercise has been known to help, the government guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week, this can be broken down into 30 minute sessions across the week and can include walking, cycling or swimming.
There are a selection of supplements that you can take and you can also speak to your doctor about HRT.
5. Hot Flushes
Another common symptom, Hot Flushes can be enough to drive you crazy! Most women will suffer with hot flushes during the menopause and they can happen at any time! Some women will have severe hot flushes, others will be mild and not cause too much discomfort.
Things you can do to help (not too dissimilar to Night Sweats):
- Wear cooler clothing
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid spicy food, alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid hot baths
The NHS suggests that HRT is the most effective treatment for hot flushes, there are also supplements that you can take, should you choose to go down the natural remedy route.
In conclusion, the Menopause sucks! But do not worry, there are plenty of options for you to take and there is much more support provided now than there was when my mom went through it 44 years ago!
The above list is not exhaustive by any means and I know from speaking to friends that vertigo, mood swings and vaginal dryness are also very common symptoms that are also delightful (not)!
I have provided a list of references below if you want to read more in depth, there are also some great books out there and some fantastic accounts to follow on Social Media:
Menopause (2021). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/
Taylor, K. (2018) ‘My GP said it was probably stress’: World Menopause Day 2018, Hysterical Women. Available at: https://hystericalwomen.co.uk/2018/10/16/world-menopause-day-all-in-my-mind/
Menopause and weight gain – Better Health Channel (2021). Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/menopause-and-weight-gain
Newson, D. (2021). Available at: https://balance-website-prod.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/uploads/2021/09/Menopause-and-me.pdf
Social Media Accounts
Please comment below and share your experiences and what treatments have worked for you and if you enjoyed reading this or you found it useful, I’d love to know!