Menopause / Perimenopause / Post menopause

Introduction
The menopause can be a daunting time of your life, with changes happening to your body that seem to be out of your control. One way to become more comfortable with these changes is to understand what is happening and why.

Here at Hormone Health, our goal is to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible prior to, during and after the menopause.

There are numerous medical terms that can sound quite intimidating before you know what they are, and searching for information online can sometimes raise more questions than they answer.

Menopause: What is it?

The word menopause comes from the Greek word ‘menos’ meaning month and “pausis” meaning to cease. Menopause means the monthly period stops. From a medical perspective, the menopause is defined as having happened one year after the last menstrual period.

The menopause or ‘the change’ usually takes place in a woman’s life aged 45-55, but in some cases it can begin earlier.

Early menopause is when menopause begins to take place earlier in a woman’s life than expected, between the ages of 40 and 45.

In some cases, premature menopause can occur, which is before the age of 40.

What are the stages of menopause?

There are three main phases to the menopause:

Perimenopause is the time in a woman’s life just before, and including, the transition through the menopause. Often it is the irregularity of periods and mood swings that women start to notice first. However, these symptoms are also common with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which means they are not always associated with the menopause. Experiencing other common menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats will help to distinguish PMS from the perimenopause.

Then follows the actual menopause. The menopause is defined as having occurred one year after the last menstrual period; you may be in the perimenopause stage for some time before your periods stop.

The years following the menopause are known as the post menopause. At this stage, many of the previous symptoms will improve, but women need to be more aware of issues such as bone and heart health.

If you want to know more about the menopause or have concerns about symptoms you are experiencing, you can contact your GP in the first instance.

However, if you would like more time to discuss your concerns, to discuss options available to you in more detail, to individualise and optimise your treatment please do get in touch with us to arrange an appointment either at one of our clinics or via a virtual consultation.

Menopause Symptoms

What at are the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause is a natural event in the life of all women. However, each woman will experience their own combination of symptoms.  Many women will experience few or mild symptoms, but others can have severe effects both physically and emotionally impacting on their work and home life.  It’s important to remember that these effects are not an indication of your general health, but part of the process of your body changing.Here are a few of the symptoms that can affect your body:

Hot flushes & night sweats

The most common symptoms encountered are hot flushes and night sweats.  These are caused by changing hormone levels affecting the part of the brain that controls body temperature.  Night sweats can also disrupt sleep patterns meaning that you’ll feel tired as well as experiencing other symptoms.

Changes in your menstrual cycle

It is rare that the menstrual cycle just stops suddenly. More often, the menstrual cycle becomes more irregular with longer, heavier or more painful periods.  This change normally marks the first stage of the menopause – the perimenopause.  Very heavy periods can indicate other gynaecological disorders so it is important to seek advice from your GP or from Hormone Health if you are concerned.

Other body changes

Lower testosterone levels can lead to reduced libido, which is often exacerbated by vaginal dryness.

Weight gain during menopause

It’s common, in the perimenopause, for women to experience weight gain. Changes in the balance of hormone levels impact on complex functions in the body and can result increase in weight gain, even with the same calorific intake.

Psychological impact of menopause

Just as changing hormone levels affect the way the brain controls body temperature, they also have a psychological impact and can cause mood swings, irritability, anxiety and low feelings.  Some women also have trouble concentrating and experience forgetfulness during the menopause.  The symptoms are not usually linked with later Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

‘The change’ often happens the same time as children leaving home (empty nest syndrome) which contributes to low mood.

Understanding the symptoms of menopause

Menopause symptoms can have a very significant effect on a woman’s work and home life. The menopause should not be considered as a time of life, which ‘you just have to get through’. There are a number of things you can do to help manage any symptoms, but it is also useful to understand what is happening to your body, as it goes through the menopause.

Symptoms often start before the age of 51, when the menopause is most likely to occur. However, some women experience an early menopause, so you should always consider seeking guidance from your healthcare professional.

A symptom diary is a resource that we regularly use with our patients as it is helps inform discussions with a timeline of events.  The diary can also be used to monitor progress through the menopause and the impact of any treatments that may be used.

Unfortunately, the type, severity and how long the symptoms will last is unpredictable. However, there are a many lifestyle, complementary, medical and alternative options available and here at Hormone Health, we have specialists, who can advise women to optimise their progress through this significant stage of their life.

Hormones & Menopause

Hormones and Menopause

During the lead up to, and after menopause, changing hormone levels cause a variety of symptoms.  The human body is extremely complex and the impact of fluctuating hormones levels are not completely understood.  However, advances in medical research does now provide insights in to what is happening and allows healthcare practitioners to determine suitable treatments for the symptoms.

In this article, we explore some of the common symptoms of menopause, the hormonal causes and potential options available that can help alleviate these symptoms.

Hot flushes / night sweats

These are the most common symptoms reported by women, and are typically experienced for a couple of years.

Hot flushes, lasting 3 to 5 minutes at a time, are thought to be caused by changing oestrogen levels impacting on the temperature control systems in the brain. The body’s temperature naturally rises and falls, but the change in hormones caused by the menopause, can lead to excessive variations.

Often, hot flushes or night sweats can lead to disturbed sleep and insomnia, and therefore, management of these symptoms can lead to improvement of sleep patterns.

Management options can include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Alternative or complementary treatments
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
  • Other medical treatments

Other factors can affect body temperature control, compounding the effects of the hormone imbalances, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Alcohol & caffeine consumption
  • Eating spicy foods

Consequently, some changes to diet can be helpful, along with a number of other lifestyle changes:

  • wearing cotton clothing rather than man-made fibres
  • wearing loose thin layers of clothing rather than thick tight-fitting clothes
  • keeping the temperature lower in the bedroom

If changes to your lifestyle are not completely successful, the medicinal and alternative treatments can be considered – see later articles.

Menopause and Mood Swings

Mood swings during menopause are triggered by the hormonal transition, where changing levels of oestrogen affect the balance of other hormones such as those that help to regulate mood and emotions.

Other psychological symptoms include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, difficulty coping and forgetfulness may be related to hormonal changes.  Sometimes these can be a result of other menopause symptoms, e.g. night sweats causing a lack of sleep and hence tiredness etc.

In addition, the menopause is often at the age, when a woman has to consider teenage children’s demands, the health of elderly parents, work pressures – all of which can accentuate the symptoms caused by the hormone changes that are taking place.

Sexual symptoms of menopause

Along with other complex physical and emotional symptoms, changing hormone levels pre– and post menopause can also impact on a women’s sexual health.

Low testosterone and estrogen can result in a lower libido, thinning of the vaginal walls and reduced lubrication. These changes lead to vaginal dryness, causing discomfort during intercourse, which is not only painful but may lead to added distress.

Treatments can be aimed at all the possible causes,

Vaginal moisturisers and lubricants will rehydrate the vaginal skin and relieve the pain caused by dryness during intercourse;

Local hormone therapy will improve the health of the vaginal wall through thickening of the vaginal skin, improving elasticity and increasing natural lubrication.

Other symptoms of menopause

Other physical symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances include those affecting the bladder.

These may be:

  • Passing urine more often by day and/or by night
  • Discomfort on passing urine
  • Increase in urine infections
  • Leakage of urine

These urinary symptoms can be distressing and embarrassing for a woman and affect her general health.  Often repeated courses of antibiotics are prescribed and invasive investigations of the bladder are performed. Local and systemic hormone therapies can be very effective in relieving these symptoms, reducing the need for other tests and treatments.

The impact of menopause is unique to each woman. No single treatment is best for all symptoms and all women.

At Hormone Health, our specialists pride themselves on offering personalised, evidence based advice, backed by research and guidelines thus creating tailored individualised treatment plans for each woman

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