Menopause symptoms giving you a tough time? Here, we take a look at common menopause symptoms and what can be done to alleviate them.
Every woman will go through menopause at some point in their lifetime. A large proportion of those will experience menopause symptoms, and it is often this that drives women to seek help from their GP in their 40s and 50s. Here, we take a look at perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause, to help you to understand what help is available.
What is Menopause?
There are three stages of menopause:
Perimenopause: Before a woman reaches menopause she will go through perimenopause. This usually begins between ages 40-44 and is the period of time in which the sex hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone begin to rapidly decline. Women going through perimenopause may start to notice changes to their body and how they feel, which can impact their quality of life.
Menopause: ‘Menopause’ is the term given to the point in time when a woman has not had a period for 12 months. This usually happens around the age of 51, however it is possible to reach menopause earlier or later than this.
Postmenopause: Once a woman has reached menopause she is then considered to be in postmenopause. Postmenopause lasts the rest of your life, and you can still experience the symptoms that reduced oestrogen and other hormones bring.
What are the First Signs of Menopause?
The first signs of menopause vary for everyone but you may notice slowly that you lose your libido and that you are becoming more irritable. You may also notice changes to your skin such as dryness, less elasticity, and that you are struggling to sleep through the night.
You’re probably already familiar with the dreaded hot flushes and night sweats, but did you know that there are more than 40 different symptoms associated with menopause? Some, like mood swings and insomnia, are more common than others.
Menopause is so individual – no two women will have the same experience. Some women will have many symptoms whereas others may have may go through menopause and perimenopause without any issues at all. Unfortunately, those with symptoms often find that their quality of life, relationships, and work-life are affected.
Here are some examples of the most common symptoms of menopause:
- Hot flushes
- Fluctuations to periods
- Mood swings
- Dry skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle aches
- Joint pains
- Vaginal dryness
- Discomfort during sex
- Urinary tract infections
This is just a small snapshot of the symptoms. It is possible to experience these during all stages of menopause.
Treatment for Menopause
There are a few different approaches to menopause treatment but generally speaking, it involves a combination of approaches. Treatment for menopause can include, but is not limited to:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): HRT is a treatment commonly offered to women who are struggling with symptoms of menopause. It involves replacing depleted hormones to help reduce the symptoms. There are a few different kinds of HRT. These include: traditional HRT, body identical HRT, and bioidentical HRT.
- Traditional HRT is what is often prescribed via your GP. This usually uses hormones that are created synthetically in a laboratory and are molecularly similar to the hormones in our bodies.
- Body identical hormones are derived from natural sources like plants and are created in a laboratory. Both traditional and body identical hormones come in set doses and application methods.
- Bioidentical hormones for menopause are made from natural sources like plants and are made in a laboratory. They are available in a very wide range of applications and dosages can be tailored to the individual person. This makes it easier for practitioners to provide personalised treatment. In addition, a much wider variety of hormones are available in comparison to the others.
The majority of women seeking HRT are doing so for the symptom relief benefits. However, there are many other hidden benefits to HRT, including improved bone density (to ward off osteoporosis) and better heart health.
Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle interventions like exercise and diet can have considerable supportive benefits for women who are going through any stage of menopause. As oestrogen levels drop, so does bone density, and this means we are more prone to broken bones, fractures, and osteoarthritis. However, by engaging in strength training with weights women can maintain stronger, healthier bones.
Food can also play a part in symptom management. Women are often advised to reduce caffeine and alcohol intake as these can make symptoms worse.
Supplements: During menopause it is important to ensure your body is getting the vitamins and nutrients it needs to support itself. Vitamin D, for example, is essential for supporting healthy bones. As we get older the body finds it harder to absorb vitamin D, and a deficiency is often associated with increased risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. You can supplement with these vitamins if you are not able to eat enough of them in your diet or get enough daylight. Speak to your doctor or a specialist before taking any supplements to ensure they do not interfere with other medications you are taking.
Ultimately if you think you are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, menopause or postmenopause, it is important to seek advice from a trusted medical professional whether this is your GP or a private doctor at a hormone clinic so you can restore your quality of life.