CHANGE PREPARE FOR
MENOPAUSE. THE VERY PROSPECT CAN CAUSE ANXIETY... BUT WE’VE GOT ALL THE FACTS YOU NEED TO MANAGE THE SYMPTOMS AND NAVIGATE THE JOURNEY
It’s a natural process, we’re told time and again, but for many women the menopausal years mean having to endure uncomfortable symptoms while others seem to sail through them relatively unscathed. This healthbook aims to put you more at ease about the changes ahead or those you may already be experiencing. The more you know, the more likely you are to be able to manage your symptoms and gracefully accept the changes you’re already going through.
THE STAGES OF MENOPAUSE
Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. In the years leading up to the final period, there’s a lot going on in the body. Natural changes associated with the ageing process can cause all sorts of unfamiliar and sometimes frightening symptoms.
Hormone levels decrease very gradually; you first enter a phase of your reproductive life known as perimenopause, when the body reduces the amount of oestrogen and eggs it produces. This usually starts in your 40s but can start as early as 30 and is a sign that menopause is on the way. It commonly begins three to four years before a woman enters menopause, but it may be as early as 10 years before. The symptoms of perimenopause may become more pronounced as you get closer to menopause.
At about 51, your ovaries may stop releasing eggs and oestrogen production slows down considerably. The symptoms experienced in perimenopause may continue into menopause. The true definition of menopause is when the ovaries are no longer making oestrogen and other sex hormones and you have had no periods for 12 consecutive months.
When you reach postmenopause, you will regain a sense of control over your body. By then, your body will have already learned how to function with low levels of hormones. In most cases, the troubling symptoms are significantly reduced, eventually fading entirely. A few women, however, still experience symptoms like hot flushes and vaginal dryness, even after the total cessation of their periods. Smoking and drinking heavily as well as stress and medical factors like cancer treatments or gynaecological surgery can mean women go through the menopause transition earlier and with more difficulty than women who don’t. Some studies also link Western diets, rich in hormone-treated foods, with delayed postmenopause, prolonging the duration of symptoms. To check if you’re in the postmenopause phase, your doctor may test levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which is usually higher in postmenopause.