We all heard about the dreaded M-word; Menopause. When I was just a young girl, my Mom would tell me daily that she is going through the Menopause and that she feels terrible today. For at least 20 years it seemed to me she used this as an excuse when she was "in a mood" or wanted sympathy. As a bare 12 year old and in the 90's where education around the menopause was far and few I did not have any idea what my Mom was going through and did not really understand the impact. Now, 30 years later, I feel terrible for not having taken my Moms words serious and left her basically alone dealing with the ups and downs that come with the Menopause. Coming to the age where Perimenopause is lurking around the corner I and also working wit quite a few women that suffer from symptoms in the workplace I am much more aware and want to help women what Menopause actually is and help educate as we still have a long way to go.
So what is Menopause? When does it start? How long does it last? How will I know if I’m in menopause? What are the symptoms? Does everyone have the same symptoms? These are just a few of the many common questions that I will be addressing. So let’s start with the basics:
The Menopausal Transition Defined
Menopause is often used as an overall term to describe when women go through the menopausal transition, however Menopause is actually one day in your life, which is when you did not have a period for 12 consecutive month. This often can create confusion. The average age of natural menopause is 52, with some women entering menopause in their early 40s and as late as their 50s.
We have several stages characterize the menopausal transition and all stages are distinctly different. The stages of menopause are: (1) Premenopause: the time when menstruation is normal. (2) Perimenopause: the time when menstruation becomes more infrequent. This is when your estrogen levels, a key female hormone starts drop. This does not happen suddenly but is a gradual process. and therefore contrary to popular belief, perimenopause does not necessarily begin when your period becomes more irregular or less frequent, but indeed begins in middle-aged women with a regular period. Therefore women often do not realize that they are in perimenopause and are confused by symptoms they do not know how to explain. (See Symptoms below) (3) Menopause: the point when a woman ceases to have a period and has gone 12 months without a period. (4) Postmenopause: includes all of the time after menopause. Menopause symptoms may still continue for several years. The most common hormone used for the determination of perimenopause is the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), with levels greater than 25 IU/L indicating a decline in ovarian function and beginning of perimenopause. As estrogen drops, FSH climbs to kickstart the follicle cycle and make up for the lack of estrogen.
Symptom in the Perimenopause phase
Now first and foremost, every women is different and can experience different symptoms. Some very few are lucky and never experience any symptoms and their period just stops one day...lucky them! Others experience the full plethora of Symptoms which include:
Joint aches and pains
Changes in mood, depression, anxiety
Memory loss (aka brain fog)
Change in cycle
Now, that is a very depressive list of symptoms and to bring back your smile on your lips please watch this little clip of the singing uterus that describes perfectly the Menopause:
Whatever symptoms you may experience, there are ways to ease some symptoms and I urge you to discuss options with your GP for medical solutions. However if you are reluctant to go down the medical route a healthy diet and exercise can help with your transition. I will be doing some separate blog post on how exercise and healthy nutrition can help you.