Audio Version (10:05)
Over the last two years, I’ve trained more than 4,000 people in menopause awareness. It blows my mind that one in four people consider leaving their careers because of menopause symptoms (whether they realise them or not!). And I’ve been on a mission to educate as many people as possible ever since.
Basics of Menopause
Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It typically occurs in midlife, usually between the ages of 45 and 55 (although it can start earlier), and is characterised by a series of hormonal changes that bring about the cessation of menstrual cycles.
While menopause is a universal experience for everyone born with a womb, its symptoms and impact can vary significantly from one individual to another.
In this article, we will explore the basic principles of menopause, including its hormonal shifts, stages, and the wide array of symptoms women may encounter during this transformative phase of life.
To watch the extended version of this article, click here.
I. Hormonal Changes during Menopause
Ovarian Function Decline:
Menopause begins when the ovaries gradually reduce their production of the female sex hormones, primarily estrogen and progesterone.
The ovaries’ ability to release eggs diminishes, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and, eventually, the cessation of menstruation.
Fluctuating Hormone Levels:
As ovarian function declines, hormone levels become erratic, leading to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone.
These hormonal shifts can contribute to the various physical and emotional symptoms associated with menopause.
II. Stages of Menopause
Menopause is not a single event but a process that unfolds over several years. It can be divided into three distinct stages:
Perimenopause typically begins in the late 30s or early 40s and can last for several years.
During this stage, hormonal fluctuations become more pronounced, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings.
Women can still become pregnant during perimenopause, but fertility declines.
Menopause is officially diagnosed when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
The average age of menopause in the United States is 51 years, but it can occur earlier or later.
Hormonal imbalances during menopause may lead to a variety of physical and emotional symptoms.
Post-menopause refers to the years following menopause.
Hormone levels stabilise at lower levels, and many menopausal symptoms subside, although some may persist.
Long-term health considerations, such as osteoporosis and heart disease, become more significant post-menopause.
III. Common Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause can manifest in various ways, affecting a woman’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. It’s important to note that not all women experience the same symptoms, and their severity can vary.
Here are some common menopausal symptoms:
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats:
Hot flashes are sudden sensations of heat that can lead to flushing and sweating.
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur during sleep, potentially disrupting a woman’s rest.
Irregular Menstrual Cycles:
As menopause approaches, menstrual cycles become unpredictable, often with longer gaps between periods.
Eventually, menstruation ceases altogether, marking the official onset of menopause.
Mood Swings and Emotional Changes:
Hormonal fluctuations can contribute to mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and even depression in some women.
Emotional changes can be distressing and may require support or treatment.
Hot flashes and night sweats can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and fatigue.
Sleep disturbances can affect overall quality of life and daytime functioning.
Changes in Libido:
Many women experience decreased sexual desire and arousal during menopause due to hormonal changes and vaginal discomfort.
Open communication with a partner and seeking medical advice can help address these issues.
Weight Gain and Metabolic Changes:
Some women may notice weight gain and changes in body composition during menopause.
Metabolism may slow down, making it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.
Declining estrogen levels can increase the risk of osteoporosis, a condition characterised by weakened bones.
Bone health becomes a significant concern post-menopause, and preventive measures are essential.
Estrogen plays a protective role in heart health, and its decline during menopause may increase the risk of heart disease.
Lifestyle changes, such as a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise, are crucial for maintaining cardiovascular well-being.
Some women report cognitive changes during menopause, such as memory lapses and difficulty concentrating.
These cognitive symptoms are generally mild and temporary for most women.
IV. Managing Menopausal Symptoms
While menopause brings a range of symptoms, there are numerous strategies and treatments available to help manage these challenges:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):
HRT involves replacing the hormones (estrogen and sometimes progesterone) that decline during menopause.
It can alleviate many menopausal symptoms but should be carefully considered and discussed with a healthcare provider due to potential risks and benefits.
Dr Newson has a wonderful website that I recommend all menopausal people visit before approaching their doctor. Knowledge is power! https://www.newsonhealth.co.uk
I discuss getting the right medical support at length in my corporate training sessions. There’s so much to discuss that I may have to do an entire article on this topic alone!
Some advice on seeking medical support:
Unfortunately, not all doctors will take you seriously.
Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
Medication rarely works fully on the first try.
On average (from my own experience and through conversations with thousands of women), you often need to try 3/4 different types of HRT or different doses before you see your symptoms subside significantly.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve menopausal symptoms. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, stress management, and adequate sleep.
Some people find relief from menopausal symptoms through complementary therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, and herbal supplements.
Consultation with a healthcare provider is essential before trying these approaches.
Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can help manage mood swings and hot flashes.
Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any medication.
Support groups and counselling can provide emotional and psychological support during the challenging phases of menopause.
The Wrap Up
Menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s life journey, marked by hormonal changes and a diverse range of symptoms.
While the experience of menopause varies from person to person, understanding its basic principles, stages, and common symptoms is crucial for women’s health and well-being.
By seeking guidance from healthcare professionals and implementing appropriate strategies, you can navigate this transformative phase with grace and confidence, ensuring a fulfilling and healthy life beyond menopause.
I have a 4-week online course specifically designed to support menopausal people. For more information, click here. For 10% off all of my online e-learning courses, use coupon code YOUTUBE10 at checkout.
As it’s Menopause Awareness Day on Wednesday, 18 October, this week and next, I’ll release several articles and extended videos on this topic. Titles include:
How to Support Someone Going Through Menopause
Why 1 in 4 Women Consider Leaving Their Careers Due to Menopause Symptoms
Why Menopause is ‘All of a Sudden A Thing’
ANDROPAUSE – the male version of menopause
So, if you haven’t done so already, please subscribe to this newsletter (click the link in the menu above) AND my YouTube channel for the extended versions.
I also support people with menopause matters on a one-to-one basis. If you require support, please DM or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thanks for your continued support.