Could It Be Menopause?
Women experience a wide range of perimenopausal symptoms in advance of the menopause - the final cessation of menstruation, ovulation and fertility. We bring you some of these real-life experiences.
Menopause symptoms can be physical and mental/emotional
During perimenopause and menopause, you may experience a wide range of uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms. See the list of symptoms later in this article and read the real experiences of women who have generously shared their stories. The difficulty for many of us is that menopause isn't spoken about openly so you may not associate some of the difficulties you are experiencing with menopause and therefore won't know where to turn to for help. My Second Spring offers you information, support and clarity. Join our community where women say they feel so much less alone and know they aren't going crazy!
Around 70% of women are affected by symptoms of menopause
Some women will go through menopause and hardly be aware of the transition. But around 70% of women are affected by menopausal symptoms that are caused by changing hormone levels. As your hormone levels fluctuate and ovarian function declines, you may experience symptoms intermittently. For example, missing periods for several months only to see them reappear in your normal pattern several months later. You may go through times of feeling very unmotivated, lacking in confidence and even experience anxiety and panic attacks for the first time in your life. Because hormones like oestrogen and progesterone are present in a huge number of cells in our bodies different body systems may be affected by hormone fluctuations during perimenopause. This varies from one woman to the next but it could be your skin, your brain, your joints or your hair that is affected. Many symptoms can be managed by making lifestyle changes. Some women will also benefit from hormone treatment.
What is the best remedy for menopause?
Your lifestyle and expectations of menopause can make a huge difference to how your experience menopause. Look closely at the following aspects of life. Make changes that are manageable and not too drastic. It's a long term effect that you're aiming for not an overnight 'fix'.
Look at how you eat: if necessary cut down on junk food, sugars and fats. Eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains (organic where possible). Fish and lean meat. Reduce dairy and red meat.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. If this is a new thing for you just walk for 30 minutes but try to do it every day.
Give up smoking
Reduce alcohol intake
Managing stress levels can considerably impact menopausal symptoms. Add yoga, meditation or sitting quietly - whatever appeals to you.
Any changes that you make toward a healthier lifestyle can have a great impact in reducing these painful and stressful symptoms.
Most women I speak to dearly want to manage their symptoms without recourse to medicines. However, sometimes you may need to control symptoms through taking medication such as HRT. Many of you will find you can manage symptoms by making changes to lifestyle and by using therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy or reflexology
What are the most common symptoms of the menopause?
The most common symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause are listed below.
- Changing or irregular periods
- Hot flushes
- Night Sweats
- Tender or painful breasts
- Anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression
- Loss of confidence, feelings of being invisible
- Changes in libido or sex drive
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Increased PMS
- Urinary leakage or urgency
- Aches and pains in muscles and joints
Many of you will experience a range of these early symptoms of menopause. These are caused by changing levels of hormone production in your body, particularly the reduction of oestrogen produced in the ovaries. At this stage, you may well still have periods - this causes confusion amongst many women and indeed their doctors, who wrongly assume that symptoms of the menopause only occur after periods stop. It is very common to experience your first menopausal symptoms whilst still having periods.
What age does menopause take place at?
Menopausal symptoms typically start in the mid-40s in what is called the perimenopause. At this stage, the symptoms may be mild. By the late 40s around 70% of us will have noticed some physical changes in periods and body temperature. We may also experience some psychological issues like anxiety, fuzzy thinking, memory lapses or low confidence.
Do all women suffer from menopausal symptoms?
Around 70% of women experience some or all of the symptoms mentioned above. Many of us will require help from our doctor or other healthcare support. Some women are fortunate and will pass through menopause with no recognition of symptoms at all. If you are experiencing a reduced quality of life make sure to seek help from your GP or another health practitioner - don't suffer in silence. Menopause can be a very challenging and lonely time of life without adequate support.
What causes menopausal symptoms?
Menopausal symptoms take place as the body re-adjusts to the fact that the ovaries are slowing down their production of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This is because the ovaries are preparing to stop producing eggs for fertilization, usually at the mid-life stage.
A gradual shift is taking place and these hormones will now be produced primarily in other parts of the body including the adrenal glands, the brain and fat cells in the skin. Uncomfortable symptoms are usually a sign that the body is making natural adjustments
Supporting the changes taking place at menopause
It is very helpful as a starting point to understand what is happening during menopause and embrace this process with plenty of advice and support. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and stress can have a big influence on menopausal symptoms. Key changes we should consider are to:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Read widely and see what approach you'd like to take to menopause
- Reduce or stop smoking
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Reduce stress
- Eat healthily
- Take regular exercise
How long do symptoms of menopause last?
It's very difficult to say what exactly you should expect, every woman is different and menopause symptoms are very variable and can last from a few months to several years.
What are the key post-menopausal symptoms?
Post-menopausal symptoms may be the result of oestrogen deficiency and its impact on the skin, hair, bladder, vagina and bones. These include:
- Lack of periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Skin itching, bruising and wrinkling due to lack of collagen
- Thinning of hair
- Growth of unwanted hair, probably due to unbalanced testosterone levels
- Urinary problems: infections, increased frequency and urgency
Aisling Grimley runs My Second Spring.ie the Irish menopause resource that reaches almost 1 million visitors a year. Women around the world visit My Second Spring each day for information and inspiration on a topic that is still neglected and under discussed today.
Aisling set up My Second Spring in 2013 when she found herself suffering from menopausal symptoms and was at a loss for local and relevant information. Her aim is to give voice and upbeat support to women who may be experiencing perimenopausal symptoms and to provide them with a wide range of treatment options for troublesome symptoms.
The name My Second Spring is taken for the Chinese term for menopause the ‘second spring’. In China, and in ancient Celtic culture, menopause is seen as a time for women to find a new voice, experience personal growth and they are valued for their wisdom which can be passed back to younger women.
You can discover more about the benefits we offer to help you live a healthier, more positive life during peri-menopause and menopause here