I thought I would write a simple Q&A blog with the simple explanations about the menopause – terms you may have heard of but are unsure of, when you are in the menopause or how do you know you are post. I hope this offers you a basic understanding……
What is the menopause exactly?
Ok, so the menopause is the final menstrual changes in a woman’s body. Basically, you have the years of peri menopause which leads to post menopause when you have gone a year without a period.
I think this should all be known as the menopause as women in their 40’s do not know they are actually menopausal & the smallest symptoms or changes are happening in their 40’s. Everyone is different and their body reacts differently to these changes.
Essentially, women in their 40’s start to produce less sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone – the ovaries are producing less and less.
A woman experiences symptoms ranging from a change in periods, angry moods, lack of energy, brain fog, painful sex, hot flashes, sleepless nights, feeling low/depressed, aches & pains, anxiety, lack of confidence & weight gain, especially around the middle – to name but a few.
Not everyone has these symptoms & as I said everyone is different, some may notice nothing, others get lots of symptoms.
IF you go to the Dr because you just don’t feel right – ALWAYS mention the menopause – even if you are in your late 30’s / early 40’s as you can also get Premature ovarian Insufficiency (POI).
Basically, you are not post the menopause until you have gone a whole year without a period. You may go 10 or 11 months without a bleed and then have one – so you will not be post the menopause until you have a whole year without. Your ovaries literally run out of eggs.
That is basically what we mean by the post menopause – so all the changes, symptoms can be during your 40’s. The average age of reaching post menopause is 52 or 53 yrs.
Can I still have symptoms in the post menopause – YES you can! Your body is getting used to the lower levels of the sex hormones.
What is happening to my body?
And what is the Menopause affecting?
During your 40’s and 50’s your body is preparing for older age when you no longer will be having children. Women are born with around 2 million egg follicles. By the age of 45 yrs women have around 10,000.
You need to be aware of your BONE health – bones begin to weaken slowly from the age of 35yrs – a natural aging process. However, once we get post menopause, with no oestrogen to protect and strengthen them, bones very quickly weaken even more.
Women in the post menopause really have to look after their bones – they need to be gently stressed to help build more strength. Osteoporosis is one of the most common problems for women post 50 yrs old!
Your body is also losing the protective oestrogen and testosterone in the muscles. So women need to work harder to keep muscles strong – that includes the pelvic floor muscles and the heart muscles!
Have I got depression?
I have no get up and go anymore and just feel really down
Is that you? Or do you find you have developed a temper – very unlike you? If so it could be that your hormones are unbalanced and are causing you to feel very low or moody or irritable. You really may not be depressed – you may just be low in oestrogen or testosterone. Time to speak to a specialist.
If you have a good GP who does know something about the menopausal symptoms then great. You may have a really lovely GP – however they do not all think about the menopause and your low mood as menopausal – so ALWAYS suggest it and ask about BODY IDENTICAL hormone therapy – try it and see if it helps.
What is the difference between body identical and bio-identical hormones?
They are basically much the same, except NICE have approved body Identical hormones as they have been through official trials and test.
Bio & body identical hormones have a molecule structure designed to match the hormones found in the body, made from yams or soya bean.
Bio-identical hormones tend to be given in private practice and are an unregulated compounded mixture of various hormones put together in compounding pharmacies. They are very individual, so no one prescription is the same as they are prescribed for that person. Hence, NICE and other government health regulators do not approve of Bio-identical hormones because they say they don’t meet the rigorous licensing standards expected by pharmaceutical companies.
Body identical hormones are still a ‘natural’ hormone but it has undergone vigorous testing.
They are both a much more natural hormone than the old synthetic hormone (made from equine urine!). You tend to get oestrogen gels or patches now and it is a better way of having oestrogen – rather than take a pill orally. Using a gel or patch means the hormone doesn’t go through the gut and hence doesn’t effect the liver.
There are a whole range of symptoms that women can have in their peri-menopausal/post menopausal years. Some of the less well known ones to be aware of are:
Burning mouth – where it feels like the mouth is burning all the time.
Aches & pains – new to you and just they just make life uncomfortable moving
Depression – you may feel really, really low and have no get up and go and just don’t want to see anyone or do anything. It is unusual for you to feel like this. If you see your GP then do mention your age and you are menopausal rather than it being diagnosed depression. You probably would be better having some HRT rather than antidepressants.
Hair loss – have you noticed your hair is really falling out, especially when you wash it??
Painful sex – or using a tampon and it is really uncomfortable. It could be that you need some localised oestrogen – Vagifem. It has the smallest amount of oestrogen but can really make a difference to your vaginal health.
These are just a few of the symptoms not talked about so much.
My main advice
ALWAYS ask your GP practice WHO is the GP trained in women’s health and knows about the menopause! Go to the GP knowing what you want and knowing what to ask and go confidently to find out what they can do. IF you are not happy then get in touch or see a women’s health menopause specialist like Hazel Hayden (bristolmenopause.com) or ask me for other practitioners who can help.
Or look at my Everything Menopause Programme to really learn about all areas of the menopause.