We’ve all heard that the menopause is a major milestone in women’s lives, but what does it actually do to your body? In this guide, we explain why the menopause happens, what to expect, how to make the change easier and how keep those hot flushes at bay.
What is the menopause?
Between the ages of 45 and 55, many women’s periods usually stop and they are no longer able to fall pregnant naturally. This natural part of aging is known as the menopause and happens when women’s oestrogen levels fall. In some women, periods can end gradually over a few months or years but others may find that they stop suddenly. Night sweats, irritability and hot flushes are some of the most common symptoms. They can start years or months before your periods actually stop and continue for several years afterwards.
What causes the menopause?
As women get older, their ovaries stop releasing an egg every month and less oestrogen is produced. Although on average this happens to most women in their early 50s, 1 in 100 women go through premature or early menopause before the age of 40. This can be due to some breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery to remove the ovaries. It can also be as a result of underlying medical conditions like Down’s syndrome or Addison’s disease.
What are the common symptoms of menopause?
From hot flushes to insomnia, we tackle the common symptoms of the menopause so you know what to look out for.
1. Irregular periods
A few years or months before the menopause, you may notice changes to your menstrual cycle before your periods stop completely.
2. Vaginal dryness
Due to the vagina becoming thinner and delicate, many women experience dryness, itching and irritation which can cause pain during sex.
3. Hot flushes
The dreaded hot flushes leave menopausal women feeling overcome with heat for several minutes. The head and neck become very hot, sometimes in combination with heart palpitations and anxiety. Night sweats are hot flushes that happen during the night.
4. Reduced sex drive
If you find yourself more interested in a good book than sex, thank menopause hormonal changes as they can affect your libido.
5. Weight gain
During the menopause, a lack of oestrogen may change the way the body uses carbohydrates which can make it more difficult to lose weight.
Night sweats may disrupt sleep leaving many menopausal women feeling tired and low on energy throughout the day.
7. Mood changes
Hormonal changes and lack of sleep mean many women can feel anxious, depressed or irritable as they go through the menopause. In addition to mood swings, they may also find it hard to concentrate.
8. Urinary changes
Some women may find that they’re going to the toilet more often along with urinary tract infections and bladder control problems.
What can you do to help manage menopausal symptoms?
Eating a balanced diet packed with vitamins and minerals, along with regular exercise to maintain fitness and a healthy weight can help improve some symptoms. Studies have shown that supplements like black cohosh may help ease hot flushes. If you find that your symptoms are affecting your everyday life, see your GP who may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Or there are a number of natural menopause remedies you could try.
Being aware of the changes that occur in your body, makes it easier to manage your symptoms with some simple lifestyle changes, supplements or treatments available from your GP.
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