Menopause

 

Menopause is experienced by every woman to some degree, in their lives. Some women experience early menopause due to genetic factors or illness. Others experience it as a result of treatment for uterine, ovarian or breast cancer, some juvenile cancers require very aggressive treatment and can bring on early menopausal symptoms. Hysterectomy and removal of ovaries for medical reasons such as Fibroids and Endometriosis will bring early onset menopause. Most women enter menopause in their early 50s, as a result of diminishing ovarian reserves and dropping oestrogen levels, this is a natural part of the cycle of life.

Menopause is the term used when menstrual cycle has stopped completely, generally for in excess if 12 months.

Peri-menopause is when the symptoms of reduced oestrogen occur.

Symptoms often continue for years after menstrual bleeding has stopped, so the technical terms blur around the edges.

In previous generations menopause was a taboo subject and not discussed, thankfully this is not the case any longer. It is a subject that should be openly embraced and freely discussed.

Some women go through the menopause with ease and transition comfortably. However, for most women this is not the case, symptoms can be uncomfortable, unbalancing and distressing, right up to debilitating. Many women are prescribed antidepressants by their GP unnecessarily, due to a lack of understanding of their condition.  We can hear the words and study to think we understand, however, until the menopause is experienced, we have no idea what it is like. When we have experienced it, we then can have a huge amount of compassion for our fellow women.

 

Common Menopausal Symptoms

  • Changes in Menstrual Cycle - Bleeding stops for long periods, or shortening and lengthening cycle

  • Changes in Menstrual Bleeding - Spotting, trickle bleeding for weeks, or excessive menstrual bleeding

  • Headaches - ranging from a dull ache to migraine

  • Dizziness – slight vertigo up to passing out

  • Tinnitus – faint whooshing water noises to high pitch ringing

  • Palpitations – flutter in the chest up to heart banging out of the chest

  • Hot flushes – a feeling of overly warm up to furnace strength

  • Night sweats – needing to throw off the covers up to drenching nightclothes

  • Insomnia – not sleeping as well as usual up to lying awake all night

  • Irritability – mild irritation up to wanting to rip someone’s head off

  • Anxiety – slight groundless anxiety up to inability to go out

  • Loss of confidence – not wanting to go to a party up to inability to drive anymore

  • Mood swings – feeling a bit low up to shouting and screaming then inconsolably crying

  • Memory loss and brain fog – losing words here and there, forgetting your friend's name up to getting lost out shopping

  • Fatigue – a bit tired all the time up to being so exhausted and not being able to go to work

  • Joint pains – aches and pains up to not being able to raise arms or put feet to the floor, oestrogen moisturises joints 

 

Other things you might notice

 

  • Dryness – eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, rectum, basically all mucous membranes dry out, oestrogen is a moisturiser

  • Changes in skin - dry skin, itching, more wrinkles, loss of elasticity

  • Hair changes - thinning, drying, brittleness

  • Changes in muscle tone - sagging arms, tummy, legs, chin

  • Changes in breast tone - they are just not as pert as they once were

  • Weight that won’t shift, especially around the middle

  • Vaginal atrophy  and excessive dryness, making sex painful, splitting skin and bruising around vulva and perineum

  • Loss of libido, generally from the point above, it's not that you don't love your partner anymore, sex is uncomfortable

  • Greater susceptibility to Urinary Tract Infections and Thrush, vaginal tissue breaks easily introducing local infection

 

Take seriously

  • As ovarian oestrogen reduces, fat tissue in the body, especially breast tissue starts producing low levels of oestrogen. This increases the risk of certain types of breast cancer. Be more aware of changes in your breasts and go for regular screening when invited.

  • If you have completely stopped menstrual bleeding. Take notice of any changes in discharge or small amounts of bleeding, or abnormal bleeding. The risk of uterine cancers increases post menopause. Go for Cervical Smear Tests when called up.

  • As oestrogen levels decline, bone density reduces, the risk of Osteoporosis increases. Request a bone density scan if you are concerned.

 

Many women turn to HRT, there is much evidence to suggest it hugely beneficial. However many women would like to transition naturally.

At some point HRT can no longer be taken and menopausal symptoms will be experienced.

Some women are not able to take HRT as they are using oestrogen suppressants following cancer treatment, or the have the BRCA gene.

In all of this, we have to be kind to ourselves and develop some humour with our condition. The symptoms will pass and you will become 'yourself' again. 

 

Acupuncture can effectively address many of the symptoms of menopause. It is safe and has no side effects, other than positive ones in reducing symptoms.

An initial course of 4 – 6 treatments is needed to balance symptoms, then monthly maintenance treatments. Many women find regular acupuncture treatments hugely beneficial for all aspects of general health and wellbeing.