Some women love the freedom that menopause brings, and some mourn the loss of the hormones that once surged through their bodies. As I edge my way out of my 40s, I am struck by how little the menopause is spoken about by the very people going through it. As I started to initiate conversations with other women I realised that HRT is like a dirty secret kept by many. Women do not want to speak about it. Menopause seems to carry a sense of shame for many and women can find it difficult to ask for menopause help until they are desperate. It is all very hush, hush, let’s not talk about it.
Why? What is it about the menopause that creates so much fear and anxiety in women?
Amongst the lovely ladies I know (of a certain age) there is concern around ageing and what it means to grow older in a youth-obsessed culture. The menopause marks the end of a woman’s youth and fertility. It can create quite an existential crisis for women when they reach an age where they can no longer become mothers. Even if they know that having a child or more children is not in their life plan, losing the ability to make that choice brings with it a sense of loss. In addition, children may have grown and flown the nest around the menopausal years, creating a change in roles for many women. They also feel they are losing control of their bodies, emotions and minds and they do not know where to turn for menopause help.
Menopause brings with it many transitions. Some wanted and some unwanted.
So what is the menopause all about? Well many things… physical, emotional, and psychological.
Some of the signs and symptoms that you are reaching or are through the menopause, i.e. peri- or post-menopausal include:
- Irregular periods. They are either all over the place or simply non-existent.
- Dry skin and joints. Everywhere dries up. Hence the dry skin, painful hips and the new prescription for KY Jelly.
- Weight gain. It creeps on especially around the middle.
- Lack of bladder control. The bladder seems to shrink to the size of a pea and the nocturnal bathroom visits increase. And whatever you do, do not laugh, sneeze or cough!
- Hair loss, hair gain and a change in colour. Grey hairs suddenly appear in abundance. They can literally go from 0-100 overnight. Pubic hair thins and facial hair makes an appearance. As oestrogen declines, testosterone dominates resulting in facial hair. This reminds me of something a lovely nurse once said to me. She said ‘We grow up worrying that one day, we will end up looking like our mothers only to look in the mirror and find out that we turned into our fathers’ (I wonder what shaving foam my Dad uses these days)
- Loss of libido. Our sex drive declines. Mother nature does not need us to get jiggy anymore. (However, do not despair sex can still be amazing)
- Anxiety, depression and mood swings increase as hormone levels influence the neurotransmitters in our brains.
- Night sweats.
- Hot flashes.
- Concentration difficulties, memory loss and brain fog.
- Sore and tender breasts.
- A loss of elasticity in the skin (think saggy knees and tummy).
- And unfortunately, many others not listed here…
All is not lost.
The menopause can be a tough time for women and those around them, but all is not lost. The symptoms may be challenging but there is a lot women can do to help themselves and it starts in the mind. The way we view ourselves, our bodies, our sexuality, ageing and life in general will play a big part in how we rise to the challenge of menopause. My own opinion is women need to talk about it, learn more about it, laugh about it, support each other going through it and find positivity in the menopause itself.
Women also need to have access to sympathetic GPs and nurses who will take their struggles seriously. There needs to be clear information to help women make informed decisions around HRT and their bodies. If you don’t get the help you need, look up Dr Louise Newson. She is a menopause guru.
I have a lot to say on the subject and feel it is important to find support and therefore, I set up a group where women can come together, talk, learn, laugh and cry. The group is focused on well-being and finding positive, supportive menopause help. You can find joy wherever you are in the menopausal journey. So what are you waiting for? Come join us!!!