Your guide to getting through menopause

Hot flushes, mood swings, forgetfulness – there’s a lot not to love about menopause. Here’s how to cope with one of life’s biggest changes.

Just as the start of menstrual periods can be a difficult time for adolescent girls, so can the end of them for women going through menopause.

Physical changes combined with hormonal upheaval can make it a difficult time to navigate, but there are ways to make the transition to the other side of menopause more manageable.

What is menopause?

According to national not-for-profit women’s health organisation Jean Hailes, menopause is the final menstrual period.

Menopause, sometimes called the “change of life”, occurs when there is a shift in woman’s reproductive hormones and the ovaries stop releasing eggs.

For most women it happens between the ages of 45 and 55, with an average age of 51.

Menopause before 40 is known as premature menopause, and before 45 it is called early menopause.

Once a woman has stopped menstrual bleeding for 12 months, that generally means menopause has taken place.

Menopause can also be brought on by surgery, or for treatment for cancer.

menopause

What to expect during menopause

The Australasian Menopause Society says every woman will be affected by menopause in some way, either by experiencing the symptoms or physical changes.

Perimenopause is the stage before natural menopause, and is when the ovaries are running out of eggs.

It is often the time when women begin to experience the symptoms of menopause, which unfortunately are not always pleasant.

Symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Vaginal changes
  • Night sweats
  • Aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Forgetfulness
  • Reduced libido
  • Hair loss
  • Weight changes
  • Mood swings

Menopause also leads to increased risk of heart disease and is a key time to focus on bone health and osteoporosis prevention.

A recent University of Illinois study found women are at increased risk of depression during perimenopause.

Life stressors including caring for children and parents, career and relationship shifts, body changes and family illness can also adversely affect mood.

But health professionals are still finding their way with diagnosis and treatment during this complex stage of life.

How to manage menopause

Treatment of menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms will vary for each woman, depending on their stage of life, relationships and general level of health and wellbeing.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, natural and complementary therapies, menopause hormone therapy (MHT, formerly known as hormone replacement therapy or HRT) and some prescription medications can also help relieve menopausal symptoms.

Proven depression remedies including antidepressants, cognitive behavioural therapy and other psychotherapies may also be needed.

For those who go through menopause because of cancer treatment, complementary therapies such as yoga and relaxation can ease symptoms.

Watch Zoe Bingley-Pullin uncover the truth about menopause and how to best manage the symptoms on House of Wellness TV:

Written by Sally Heppleston.

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