When does the menopause occur?
The menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55 years. Some women do start before that. If you haven’t had children, for example, you might well start earlier.
A good indicator of when you’re likely to start is to find out when your mother did.
What happens at the menopause?
When girls are born we all start out with a supply of approximately 2 million eggs. At the menopause the release of eggs from your ovaries becomes more erratic and your monthly periods become less frequent and eventually stop.
Normally our hormones balance out. However when we have menopausal symptoms, we are suffering from hormonal imbalance. At the menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels fall in varying amounts from person to person.
As the oestrogen levels fall and/or there are sudden changes in hormone levels, many women experience symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, emotional mood swings and a lowered sexual drive.
Less oestrogen means
As our ovaries reduce their production of oestrogen, our adrenal glands will kick in and compensate by producing oestrogen. We also produce oestrogen from our fat cells, so being very slim around the time of the menopause will not be beneficial to your health in the long run. Being overweight isn’t the answer either as hot flushes can be more intense, though from an oestrogen-production point of view, you are better off being slightly overweight than underweight.
What are the menopause symptoms?
Hot flushes and night sweats
Mood changes, anxiety and depression
Vaginal dryness and other skin changes
Bloating and water retention
Raised blood pressure, palpitations and other cardiovascular changes
Poor memory and concentration
Lowered sex drive
Painful intercourse due to the vaginal wall becoming drier and thinner
Joint/muscle aches and pains
Changes in hair quality
Sleep problems due to hot flushes and/or hormonal changes
Anxiety and/or depression
Painful and enlarged breasts caused by cysts
Everyone is different
The thing to remember is that menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman, though you are unlikely to get all of the symptoms mentioned. It can be hard if mood changes are making you feel like you’re going crazy. This can be compounded by unsympathetic reactions to your distress.
Some women do sail though the menopause without any symptoms and the only thing they notice is that their periods have stopped. Some of the women I have seen in my practice have told me that they have repeated hot flushes day and night, so that they are literally drenched much of the time.
Your experience of menopause doesn’t seem to be related to how problematic your periods were. I have seen clients who had absolutely no problem with their periods and then found themselves sobbing with despair or suffering road rage during their menopause.
The term perimenopause refers to the time before menopause. This stage can start as much as 5-10 years before the actual menopause. The symptoms are usually irregular periods and a shorter menstrual cycle length is the most common change that occurs during the perimenopausal period. Other symptoms are the start of hot flushes and night sweats (known as vasomotor symptoms), mood swings, problems with concentration and disturbed sleep.
Menopause is the point in a woman’s life when her menstrual periods have stopped for more than a year. The average age of menopause for women in this country is approximately 51 years.
The clinical indication that menopause has occurred is the measure of a higher FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level. FSH normally helps you to ovulate. The body releases more FSH at the menopause because ovulation is no longer taking place.
Literally, the term means ‘after the menopause’. A woman’s level of oestrogen remains low after menopause. This can affect many parts of the body, including the sexual and urinary organs, the heart, and the bones. In that sense the changes of menopause will be for the rest of your life.
Diet and Exercise Help
Eating the right foods, exercising, and making other positive lifestyle changes can help a woman feel great and live a long, healthy life after menopause.
One of the main changes to your diet that is beneficial would be to increase foods that contain natural phyto-oestrogens. Soya products are rich in phyto-oestrogens which might explain why Japanese women, who have a high soya diet, report fewer hot flushes than Western women.
By taking Vitamin E and avoiding hot spicy food you may reduce hot flushes and by drinking fewer caffeine-rich drinks you can reduce anxiety and palpitations.
Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or jogging, is great for maintaining the health of your bones and swimming and yoga will maintain joint mobility.
I have other articles about the menopause. One article offers helpful tips on natural ways to help you through the menopause, that are alternatives to, for example, HRT and one article is about how much your attitude can help.
Daphne Nancholas has for the past 10 years helped women in the UK through the menopause. You can find out more from her website: http://www.menopausesupport.co.uk. She is a published author and she and her partner Graham Smith have produced a relaxation CD which you can purchase from http://www.calmtime.co.uk. They live in Cornwall and are part way through producing their next CD.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice.