Once taboo it’s now a source of confusion. Here are some top menopause truths.

1. What it really is!
Menopause is when a women progresses past her fertile years towards potentially the happiest, most productive years of her life. Periods stop, worrying about contraception is no longer a thing (make sure you double check with your GP on just how long to be careful!) and once you’re post-menopause you really stop sweating the small stuff.

2 How long it goes on for
There is no definitive answer. Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop. Typically they last around 4 years after your last period, although some women experience them for much longer. Studies say they last between 3-15 years, depending on lots of variables. The ones you can control include how you look after yourself. Do you stay well hydrated? Are you eating good quality foods, with daily protein and lots of different coloured vegetables? Do you move your body every day & raise your heart rate? Are you doing something productive with your days and counting your blessings? All contribute to your emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing.

3 That help is available
Know how to ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength – let’s face it, if you fell and broke your hip, you wouldn’t struggle on in silence – so why do this during peri to post menopause? Talk to friends and colleagues. Try support groups if you’re really struggling. Talking is powerful and a great way to realise you are not alone – we are stronger together.
Make a list of your symptoms and monitor them over a couple of weeks. Use this to talk to your employer about reasonable adjustments that can help you perform at your best. Use the same symptom list when you go to see you GP & be aware that they may not have been trained on menopause. Take the NICE guidelines with you, so that you can show them that HRT is the first line of defence for treating symptoms – NOT anti depressants! There is LOTS you can do to help yourself. Make sure you create non-negotiable rest and relaxation time.

4. What the symptoms are
Hopefully you will fall into the category of women who don’t experience any symptoms. There are at least 34 symptoms … on average a women experiences two or more. Sadly, without the right help, roughly 25% of women may experience several symptoms that can have a detrimental effect on their quality of life. This is avoidable with the right help & support. 55% of women have mild to moderate symptoms.
Symptoms can be emotional, physical and psychological. For example: hot flushes, night sweats, irregular periods, mood swings, vaginal dryness, low libido, headaches, breast soreness, burning mouth, joint pain, digestive problems, ‘electric shocks’, muscle tension, gum problems, tingling extremities, itchy skin, fatigue, anxiety, sleeplessness, hair loss, memory lapses, poor concentration, weight gain, dizzy spells, bloating, stress incontinence, brittle nails, allergies, irregular heartbeat, body odour, irritability, depression, panic disorder, osteopenia / osteoporosis

5. What not to say to someone going through menopause
“Oh, get over it” “Stop crying” ‘’Oh, you’re having one of your moments” “Come back when you’ve calmed down” or anything other than “How can I help?”

6. You feel like you are losing your marbles
When I hit early menopause I genuinely thought I had early onset dementia and left the job I loved rather than get ‘found out’. When you struggle to sleep, your energy drops alongside your concentration and focus, you can start to think that you aren’t coping or that you’re losing the plot.
This is a sign that you need to get the right help and support. There is loads you can do to build yourself back up quickly and realise that you are 100% capable and able. You may have to do things a little differently for a while.

7. You cry for no reason
And it’s OK to do so. Just accept it, look after yourself and remember, tears are healthy. What remains unresolved or unsaid from your earlier years that’s tipping you into a more emotional version of the normal you? How much have you bottled up and soldiered on, doing what was expected of you and never fully processed life events in the past? Think back to puberty, adolescence – emotions were normal. So why shouldn’t we feel all the feels right now?

8. You feel persecuted
Ever felt like everyone was out to get you? That your boss doesn’t understand you? Or simply, that no-one is listening to you? Perhaps your Spidey senses are on high alert and you are noticing more than usual. Keep a diary of those moments you feel unsettled by and if it feel right, make time to chat with the person who you feel you’ve fallen out of kilter with. Keep it light and explore what you noticed with them. Chances are there is a simple explanation, and you can put your mind to rest. Save your energy by acting on the things that are worrying you so you can stop worrying about them.

9. You come out the other side feeling way more positive
Many women find they feel better than ever after the menopause, with a new sense of freedom and positivity – and research backs this up. A study by the University of Melbourne found that women feel calmer, ore patient, more energetic and in control of their lives after the menopause.

10. You’d better get some lube – and not just any lube
Ah – left this one til last. When people talk about the menopause they REALLY don’t talk about vaginal dryness and atrophy and the misery they can cause. Both are avoidable and treatable. You should be moisturising your vulva as often as you moisturise you face. If you are finding that you are not as lubricated as normal, then use a properly pH balanced lubricant before and during intercourse. If sex is painful or uncomfortable, see your doctor to find out about internal oestrogen. This is not HRT and makes all the difference to your sex life. Some women give up on their physical relationship when they hit this hurdle, but you don’t need to! Let’s ask for the help and support we need when we need it.

Words: Lauren Chiren, who helps women and employers navigate menopause. For more info go to: https://www.womenofacertainstage.com

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