Menopause – a significant phase in our life time, one that marks the end of reproductive years and for most of us, can bring about profound physical and emotional changes. Understanding menopause is essential for us as we navigate this transition. Every woman will experience it differently, and your experience is unique to you. Menopause doesn’t have to be a secret, nor a scary transitional phase! In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of menopause, from its definition and common symptoms to when it typically occurs and how to manage it effectively.

What is menopause?

Menopause is the phase in a woman’s life that signifies the end of her menstrual cycle and the closure of her reproductive chapter.

It isn’t all doom and gloom like you may have heard, there is life during menopause!

Menopause is a completely natural biological process that is orchestrated by hormonal changes, specifically a decline in testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen in particular.

 

What is estrogen?

Estrogen is a key female sex hormone produced by the ovaries that plays a multifaceted role in your body throughout your lifetime.

By now you will be familiar with the role of estrogen in regulating the menstrual cycle, but did you know that it is crucial in maintaining bone health, heart health, and various other bodily functions?

As you approach your late 40’s or early 50’s, your ovaries gradually reduce their estrogen production, leading to irregular periods. Eventually, your periods will stop altogether.

It is only then, when your periods have been absent for at least 12 consecutive months that you would be considered in menopause.

The different stages of menopause

The menopause lifestage can be divided into three stages: perimenopause, menopause and post menopause.

Perimenopause

The years leading up to menopause

Menopause

Begins when you have gone a full year without a period

Post menopause

The time after the menopause and beyond

What are the symptoms of menopause?

If you think you may be experiencing menopause, or know for sure that you are in the life stage of menopause, it is important to remember that your experience is going to be completely different from the next woman’s.

It also has the potential to be different from your Mother’s experience…no two menopause experiences are the same. 

Some women transition through menopause without any side effects, whereas others will suffer from extreme symptoms and live through the negative impacts these have on their lives.

We believe the first step to addressing menopause is to recognise and understand the symptoms.

Perhaps you are experiencing some of these:

  • Hot flashes

    Often referred to as hot flushes. These are one of the most recognisable and frequently reported symptoms of menopause. A hot flash is a sudden, intense wave of heart that can encompass the face, neck and upper body in particular, but you may also feel it in other places too. The hot flash is usually accompanied by profuse sweating and can happen any time of the day or night (including when you sleep!)

  • Vaginal Dryness

    The decline in estrogen levels during menopause can result in reduce lubrication produced by the vagina. This can lead to discomfort, itching, pain during sexual intercourse and an increased chance of developing a urinary tract infection

  • Changes in bone density

    Have you noticed your joints hurting, or you just feel weaker? Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health. As estrogen levels decrease, you will naturally experience a decline in bone density, potentially leading to conditions like osteoporosis. If we do not do anything about it, our bones become more susceptible to fractures and injuries.

  • Mood swings

    This is one of the most common psychological symptoms of the menopause! You may feel more irritable than usual, anxious, tearful and sometimes find that things that normally wouldn’t make you angry, suddenly do. Other women experience feeling flat and unhappy. You are more likely to suffer from menopausal mood swings if you previously suffered from premenstrual syndrome, or have suffered with depression (including postnatal) in the past

  • Brain Fog

    As your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone begin to fall, the receptors to these hormones in your brain will become undersupplied and brain fog occurs. This can also cause your concentration levels to fall and forgetfulness can appear.

  • Heart Palpatations

    1 in 4 women experience heart palpitations linked to menopause. They can feel as though your heart is suddenly racing, pounding or even fluttering, and can be associated with hot flashes. If this wasn’t bad enough, often we find that these palpitations can cause us to feel panic and bring on anxiety. The decrease in estrogen during menopause is what causes changes to how our heart beats

Click here for our full list of menopause symptoms

 

It is important to remember that the severity and duration of these symptoms will vary among individuals. While some women may experience mild discomfort, others may find their menopausal symptoms to be more disruptive to their lives.

 Surgical Menopause

Some women may enter a surgical menopause, due to having had a hysterectomy (an operation to remove the womb). If your ovaries have been taken out alongside your womb, your body will enter the menopause right away.

 

When does menopause happen?

The average for a woman to begin menopause in the UK is 51, but the timing can vary.

Some women may experience menopause earlier, in their mid to late 40s, while others may not reach this stage until their mid-50s. 

The age at which menopause occurs is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors:

  • Genetics – Your family history will play a significant role in determining when a woman reaches menopause. If your Mother or older sisters experienced it early, or late, you may follow in a similar pattern.
  • Lifestyle Factors –  Your lifestyle choices and habits can impact the timing of menopause. Women who lead physically active and health-conscious lives may experience menopause slightly later than those with sedentary or less health-conscious lifestyles.
  • Reproductive History – There is some research to show that the number of pregnancies a woman has had may have an impact on the timing of menopause. Women who have had up to three children may experience menopause later than a woman who has not had any pregnancies. You are also less likely to go into early menopause naturally, if you breastfed your children.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) – Whilst we aren’t huge fans of BMI, research does suggest that women that are classified with an underweight BMI are at risk of early menopause. Women in the overweight and obese category are at risk of late menopause, and women who have a healthy BMI do not seem to have any risks of these.
  • Medical Interventions – There are certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgically removing the ovaries (an oophorectomy) can induce early menopause.

 

How women of different ethnicities experience menopause

Women of Latina Origin:

  • The average age of menopause is between 47 and 48 years.
  • More likely for hot flashes and sweating to be a symptom of menopause
  • Some risk of developing cardiovascular-related diseases after the menopause transition
  • Typically, have strong support networks throughout the menopause

Women of Afro-Caribbean Origin:

  • May experience natural menopause at 49.6years on average and tend to experience menopause for longer than others
  • Tend to experience hot flashes more severely and for longer periods than others
  • Less likely to experience sexual dysfunction
  • More likely to experience sleep disturbances

Women of Asian Oriental Origin:

  • Are likely to enter menopause later than others
  • May experience a decline in libido during menopause
  • More likely to experience forgetfulness, joint and muscular pain

Women of South-East Asian Origin (Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc):

  • Tend to experience menopause at a younger average age than others (around 47 years)
  • May experience more gynaecological problems when compared to other ethnicities
It is essential to remember that menopause is an individualised experience. The timing, symptoms, and impact on your well-being can vary within families and ethnic groups.

How can I manage menopause and what are the treatments?

As you navigate your menopause journey, you must be aware of the treatment options available and how to manage your symptoms effectively.

We want you to arrive at the post-menopause period in good stead. 

Knowing what options are out there and potentially available to you allows you to be informed, and empowered when deciding what treatment, or treatments are right for you.

This phase of life brings about physical, physiological, and emotional changes, but there are strategies and lifestyle adjustments that you can embrace to manage symptoms effectively and maintain overall health.

Regular exercise

Incorporating some form of daily movement and physical activity into your routine is one of the best ways to manage menopause symptoms. 

There is a link between the hormone changes that take place during menopause and an increase in body fat around the midsection, which can contribute to several health concerns.

Regular physical activity or exercise will positively impact your menopause symptoms and help to address the challenges you face during this life stage. One common change that occurs during menopause is the redistribution of fat to the abdominal area. This shift in fat storage can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues and metabolic concerns.

Regular exercise and physical activity (strength training in particular!) will help address this fat redistribution and also build and maintain muscle mass – which is a critical aspect of our health that declines with age and post-menopause.

 

Balanced diet

You can begin to address menopause from the inside out.

This is the first step we recommend you take when looking at how you can improve your experience of the menopausal life stage!

Menopause can be a rollercoaster, and what you eat can influence your experience of this transition. 

A balanced diet, meaning a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, protein sources with every meal, and sufficient healthy fat and carbohydrate intake play an important role in providing the nutrients you need and promoting a better hormone balance.

A balanced diet nourishes your body, and including phytoestrogens within your diet may reduce the severity of your symptoms, like hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats. Read our blog post on phytoestrogens.

 

Stress management

The hardest, yet super-effective menopause management lifestyle adjustment!

Regularly practicing stress management techniques like meditation, resetting your nervous system with breathing exercises, yoga, or even speaking with a therapist can be the gift that keeps on giving through menopause and beyond. 

Stress (especially chronic stress) has been shown time and time again to negatively impact our health and well-being…not just during menopause.

Addressing your stress head-on can be the start of unravelling many of your questions to do with your health and menopause transition. 

 

Medical Treatments (including HRT)

These treatments often include medications designed to address specific issues. For example, low-dose antidepressants may be the pick-me-up that your brain needs and vaginal creams or tablets may alleviate vaginal dryness or discomfort.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the most popular medical treatment for menopause, which involves taking estrogen, often combined with progesterone to replenish the hormones declining in this life stage. It has been life-changing for some women!

This option may be available to you, so we suggest you make an appointment to discuss it with your Doctor. 

It is essential that you have a thorough discussion about your symptoms and options with your Doctor. Only then, will they be able to determine the most suitable medical treatment for your individual needs. 

Remember, medical professionals are there to help you. Do not be ashamed of what you are experiencing!

 

Menopause Supplements

Supplements and herbal remedies should be considered as an additional option for managing menopause symptoms, alongside lifestyle changes and medical treatments. 

You may have heard of evening primrose oil for menopause, but this isn’t the only supplement that may be helpful. There is so much more!

 

Regular Health Checks

Keep on top of your hormones and health by having regular visits to your GP throughout the menopause and monitor your progress. These appointments will allow you to discuss any concerns or symptoms you may be experiencing.

You should receive personalised guidance based on your specific health status.

 

Support and Education

Seeking support from trusted friends, family, or within the Blossom Wellness network can be a total game changer during this transition. 

Educating yourself about this life stage, being able to recognise changes you may be experiencing and what these could mean will empower you to make informed decisions about your menopause management and overall well-being.

 

Before you go

We invite you to explore the Blossom Wellness website, where you will find a wealth of resources that will give you guidance and a deeper understanding of the menopause journey. 

We’re adding to the Menopause Knowledge Hub nearly every week!

We’re here for you every step of the way. By providing information, advice, and we are working on creating a nurturing community to help you embrace menopause with confidence. 

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey and you can thrive during and after the menopause life stage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read more about this topic

What is menopause, and when does it typically occur?
Menopause is a transitional period that woman experience which signifies that their reproductive years are ending. The average age for menopause to occur in the UK and US is 51.
What are the most common symptoms of menopause?
Everyone will experience menopause differently, but the most common symptoms seem to be hot flashes, brain fog, mood changes, night sweats, and low libido.
How long does the menopausal transition usually last?
It can last from a few years up to 14 years, but this will vary from person to person.
What causes menopause, and why does it happen?
Most of the time, menopause happens naturally. It is a normal part of the aging process. It begins when our estrogen levels decline.
What are the hormonal changes that occur during menopause?
Menopause occurs because of the decline in estrogen. This then affects the levels of other hormones such as progesterone, and testosterone.
What are the most effective treatments for managing menopausal symptoms?
The first step is always to look at your lifestyle and assess whether you need to make some changes that will positively impact your health and therefore your menopause experience. A very effective treatment for managing menopause symptoms is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Why do many women experience hot flashes during menopause?
Hot flashes are a symptom of menopause that occurs because of the changes in estrogen levels, which impact the body’s core temperature. When there is a change in the core temperature, the body will automatically do something to regulate it. In the case of women experiencing menopause, the core temperature rises and the body reacts by producing a hot flash in an attempt to cool it down.
How do mood swings and emotional changes relate to menopause?
We experience many changes throughout menopause, which can contribute to emotional changes and mood swings. First is the hormonal changes. Physiologically, things are constantly changing and this is exhausting for the body and the mind. Then we must consider how we actually feel about menopause. Some women struggle to accept that this is part of the aging process and that they have arrived here. On the other hand, women may experience difficult symptoms such as hair thinning, low libido, and low self-esteem which can affect how we feel too. The menopause can be a life-changing experience for some, so it is important that you understand what is happening to you and have a support network that can help.
Are there natural remedies or lifestyle changes that can help alleviate menopausal symptoms?
Yes! There are natural remedies that you can use to help alleviate menopausal symptoms. A diet rich in phytoestrogens may increase your estrogen levels naturally. Read our Phytoestrogen blog, and find more advice on this in our Menopause life stage.

References

Where we got some of our information from

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