Hello My Lovely
Let’s discuss the scourge of womanhood. It’s not periods, pregnancy, or childbirth. Those are blessings.
NO…I’m talking the dreaded Menopause. Understand Menopause And Keep Your Sanity, as it’s much easier when you know what to expect.
There Are 3 Stages To Menopause
Peri-Menopause, Menopause and Post Menopause.
It’s not always obvious to us when we first begin peri-menopause. It can show in your late 30’s but more commonly in your early to mid 40’s.
AND, even though we discuss menopause and associate it with all the commonly known symptoms, it’s actually the peri-menopausal stage that causes us the most problems.
BTW, if you do start to experience these symptoms in your 30’s (pre-menopause) you should consult with a physician as there may be other causes. This age is not usually associated with naturally occurring peri-menopause.
One reason to see your doctor may be to rule out thyroid-related problems. Irregular thyroid function can cause symptoms similar to peri-menopause. This can be determined by a simple test.
Stage 1 – Peri-Menopause
This is the hormonal transition phase. It usually precedes full-blown menopause by about at least 5 years. The symptoms aren’t always immediately identifiable, especially if you are younger than you expect, but it won’t take you long to realize what’s happening.
Here’s What Gives The Whole Game Away:
- An occasional missed period. Be careful as you can still get pregnant.
- Fatigue and a general lethargy that wasn’t there before.
- An increase in the length and heaviness of your periods
- Sudden hot flashes leaving you uncomfortably sweaty
- Tender breasts
- Hair loss or thinning
- Some vaginal dryness causing some discomfort during sex
- You can become clumsiness and notice that you bruise easily
- Unexpected skin issues with rashes or pimple flareups
- Anxiety and bouts of tears without any real cause
- Headaches and moodiness
- Changes in your eyesight. You may start to need glasses to read
- You may notice dry eyes and itchy skin
- Weight gain around your waist
- Some forgetfulness, like car keys in the fridge and milk on the table
- Insomnia or restless sleep, usually due to night sweats
- Possible urine leakage when you cough, laugh or sneeze
Why Are All These Things Happening?
Peri-menopause is the start of your hormones rearranging themselves. Our body has reached an age where nature deems us to be too old to reproduce, so our ovaries become less active, and we ovulate less often.
Usually, we need a balance between Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone. Estrogen and progesterone control menstruation.
But once our ovaries start to decline the balance shifts and progesterone declines.
This results in an excess of estrogen which starts to play havoc with our bodies. BUT we are still able to conceive albeit harder. This is why some women close to 40 or older need help by using In Vitro Fertilization
Different Ethnicities May Experience Menopause Differently
The Study Of Women’s Health Across The Nation (SWAN) has studied women from different ethnicities and found that this can make a big difference to what symptoms they endure and to what degree.
The research found that African American women are very likely to have the heaviest periods, Puerto Rican Hispanic women have more severe sleeping issues, and women from Central America can have the most hot flashes.
The research is ongoing to determine the reasons for these results, and to document other physical, biological and social changes experienced by women during these transitional years.
Menopause Is Not The Same For Every Woman
Some lucky women sail through this stage of their life with very few problems…well maybe a few minor symptoms, but overall, they don’t suffer too much.
This is often genetic. If your mother had very few issues, chances are you won’t.
Coupled with this is the likelihood that you’ve never had too many other female-related issues such as endometriosis overwhelmingly heavy periods, severe premenstrual tension etc. It seems to go together.
But for the vast majority of women, menopause is a stage in life that, although they know it’s coming at some point, when it finally hits them, they’re blindsided by the effect it has on their happiness, health, and ability to cope day to day.
For Many Women Menopause Is Like Hell On Earth
You wonder what you ever did that was so bad as to deserve such a fate, and keeping your sanity can be a struggle. There were definitely times when I looked at the universe and asked WHY?
However, at 63 I’ve been through it all and come out the other end with sanity intact…maybe a little frayed at the edges and more grey hair!
You may also like this post: 9 AWESOME ANTI-AGING SECRETS
But there were many moments…!
My husband can attest to the mood swings, bouts of depression, the irritation of never knowing when to expect my next period, or even if I would get one at all!.
I still vividly remember the feeling of a hot flash coming on. Always at the least convenient moment. That wave of heat coming from inside that just overwhelmed me was sometimes so strong, I thought I may faint.
Plus…the embarrassing lack of bladder control. Always an amusing topic among my female friends when we met for lunch.
The phrase “please don’t make me laugh!” had real significance for us. I’m certain you can relate.
Here’s The Usual Symptoms In More Detail
- Initially you’ll start to experience inconsistent periods which can be heavier or lighter than usual. You can’t plan because you no longer know when to expect one. This is coupled with an overwhelming fatigue and general lethargy towards life.
- You’ll finally get first-hand knowledge of the ‘hot flashes’ you’ve heard discussed in all conversations about menopause over the years. These can happen at any time. The surge of heat that seems to emanate outwards from your very core, resulting in sweat everywhere, face, armpits, groin, under your breasts, leaving visible evidence that you try to hide.
- In your bed you get that surge again. This time, inventively renamed as night sweats. You’ll wake up and feel the need to fling the bed covers off, lying there, awake and dripping. Finally, if you’re lucky, you dose off again only to wake up cold and reaching to drag the covers back over you. This can be a repetitive nightly activity.
- Then there’s the thoughts of ‘doing away with’ yourself, your partner and anyone else you encounter (metaphorically speaking of course – although not always!) Your frustration and mood swings can, and probably will, boil over more often than you would like.
- Plus, the incredibly sore breasts and dry vagina leading to uncomfortable sex…and that’s if you even have the energy or inclination. Use a good quality lubricant to help prevent soreness.
- The weight gain particularly around your middle. It’s one of the hardest areas to shed the weight from. No easy solution besides some exercises targeted at that area…and stay away from too many high carbs foods.
- Head hair thinning or falling out, strangely coupled with facial hair appearing where you never had any before. Try to reduce the amount of chemicals such as colors. Use treatments more often to strengthen the follicles.
- You may experience a prickly or itchy sensation everywhere, and there can even be a strange metallic taste in your mouth with no apparent cause. No answer for this one.
- And, to add insult to injury, there’s incontinence just from sneezing, coughing, or even laughing. Pelvic floor exercises can help.
Nope…it’s no laughing matter. Ask any woman who has resorted to wearing incontinence panties in their late 40’s. Just an uninvited and insulting reminder that you’re getting older.
…you’re still in your prime!
It’s just all too much. Worse still is the knowledge that it will persist for YEARS (If men had to endure it there would be a cure by now)…if only it were possible!
Keep Your Sanity During Peri-Menopause – Know What To Expect
Understanding what’s happening to your body and why, can really help. Coming to terms with it, accepting that it’s natural and that it will happen whether you like it or not, will go a long way towards finding the best ways to overcome the symptoms.
This is caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, bowel and uterus. It commonly occurs as a result of childbirth and aging. It can be greatly overcome by doing some pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your muscles.
Avoid some embarrassing mishaps by always having some absorbent pads on hand.
At this stage you will probably still have children at home, you’re super busy but still having to cope with the changes you’re going through.
It’s not going to be easy. There WILL be times when you feel like screaming! (more than usual)
Your husband and kids can’t possibly understand…so it tends to be a phase in your life that you deal with alone. This will mean you need to exercise some patience with them.
Now is a great time to chat with female friends of the same age or have a ‘deep and meaningful’ with your mom. She will undoubtedly have some words of wisdom.
A note of interest…
I lost quite a lot of weight during peri-menopause (a deliberate effort) with the help of a personal trainer and a great eating plan. If you’d like to know how (read this post)
A big surprise was that my loss of bladder control appeared to be corrected as a result. Along with no more headaches, and fixed my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which was related to a high level of stress.
Could be just a personal reaction and may not be the same for every woman…but worth noting.
BTW, if you do suffer from IBS later in life, consider having a colonoscopy to rule out any form of bowel cancer.
Manage hot flashes by carrying a change of clothing with you when you leave the house. A change of top will be useful as there will be times when you actually sweat so much it’s too noticeable to hide.
Carrying a small towel with you for these occasions.
Bouts Of Depression & Moodiness
Feelings of depression and anxiety can be helped by some well-deserved self-care. Put yourself first.
Take time to nurture your body and mind with meditation, yoga, self-reflection, and making some time to be alone if possible.
Have a play list or guided meditation on your phone for the times when you feel totally frazzled and irritable.
Sit on your own and listen to this. It will have a calming and grounding effect when you need it to get through the day.
Self-care is always essential, but never more so than when you are in such a challenging phase of your life. Being mindful and positive means making time for reflection, peaceful thoughts and treating yourself with care and love.
The benefits of this can’t be underestimated (related post – What does self-care mean to you?)
The Benefits Of Exercise
Make time for some regular exercise. It doesn’t have to be too strenuous, but it has been proven to not only improve your mood, but also help you sleep better and overcome bouts of depression and anxiety.
Not to mention, help to get rid of that ‘spare tire’ that’s developing around your waist.
Feelings Of Mild Confusion
You may find that you feel confused at times. Nothing too serious but it can be extremely annoying.
Like staring at your computer but you’ve forgotten what you were planning to do.
Don’t fret…just sit and gather your thoughts.
And if you lose something, check the fridge. You’ll be surprised what ends up in there!
I know this feeling well.
I’ve left my car keys in some pretty weird places.
One time I lost my handbag (yes, with everything in it) for 3 days. I cancelled my credit and debit cards, panicked about my phone, and other special items I kept with me.
I fretted over where it could be…revisited all the shops and places I had been to in the previous week but to no avail.
What a catastrophe…I couldn’t drive, couldn’t call, couldn’t shop…the end of the world was nigh!
Phew…my husband found my bag in the shed!
I do remember going in there for the bag of dog food, but I have no idea why I would take my handbag with me. Too late for the credit cards though…damn!
Frustratingly I had to wait for all the new ones to be issued.
Mental note: don’t do it again!
However, all is not lost. This mental brain-drain can be overcome by doing puzzles like crosswords or brain games such as Lumosity Brain Training
An added benefit to this is that just setting aside some time from your daily life to spend a little time on some oddly stimulating mental activities gives you a break from your daily worries and decisions.
Loss Of Sex Drive/Intimate Discomfort
Something that may cause you some concern is a declining interest in sex. This is often due to the discomfort from vaginal dryness, tender breasts, or general tiredness, all of which are common with peri-menopause.
Obviously, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your partner and decide together on ways to overcome it. Maybe set the mood with a date night, sexy underwear, fun sex toys, role playing in costume, or watching some porn together.
If all else fails, don’t be shy about using a safe female lubricant to overcome any discomfort.
Also, discussing the issues you are having in relation to peri-menopause can only assist in your partner having a better understanding of what you’re going through, and can bring you closer at a time when you could easily drift apart.
Hair Loss or Thinning
This is directly related to a drop in hormones. Your hair will grow more slowly and thin out. The drop in hormone levels also triggers an increase in the production of group of male hormones called androgens.
These shrink your hair follicles resulting in the hair loss, but strangely they also cause hair to grow elsewhere such as on your face.
You may notice a long hair or two on your forehead or chin. Time to get the tweezers out!
This is also the same hormone that causes more serious hair loss in men.
Here’s a tip:
You can help to balance androgen hormones by eating regular lean, low fat protein and avoiding sugar and processed carbohydrates.
Manage your stress levels, exercise, drink Green tea and get adequate Omega 3 fatty Acids from fish oil supplements or eating fatty fish such as Salmon or Mackerel regularly.
Be Extra Gentle With Your Hair
Limit the use of styling aids that will dry out or pull your hair, and choose natural products without chemicals to give your hair a fighting chance to recover.
This also includes limiting the times you color or perm your hair if possible.
I know…this is a big ask. We want to look nice, particularly when we’re being constantly reminded that we are aging by our ‘delightful’ condition!
Take Care Of Your Nutrition
You may also be lacking in some nutrients that are more relevant now. Or you may have some thyroid issues.
If you feel you are losing too much hair, maybe have your thyroid checked just to rule out anything besides peri-menopause.
Hair loss can also be addressed by exercising reducing stress and getting enough Essential Fatty Acids
Choose foods like:
- Green Tea
- Nuts – almonds, walnuts, pecans
- Flaxseeds/flaxseed oil for salad dressings
Take supplements of B6 and Folic Acid. You can also take a good quality fish oil to help you get enough Omega 3 if you don’t like salmon or tuna.
AVOID spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine (and smoking) if possible.
Regular Checkups Are Vital
This applies to any stage of your life. Men too…but particularly women going through hormonal changes
We seem to have so many more ‘moving parts’ that can have medical issues. These can and do, go unfound and untreated in millions of women every year, even in first world countries.
I’m referring to regular pap smears, thyroid tests, and mammograms, along with the usual cholesterol, Diabetes, and other checkup items.
During peri and menopause, the changing hormones can upset more than just our mood and peace of mind. Other more major issues may be triggered and catching them early is obviously going to be super beneficial.
Like at any time in your life, it’s particularly important to stay hydrated, and the best hydration is water.
This will assist with dry skin, hair thinning, weight loss, mood swings and just generally helping you feel better: 16 REASONS WHY WATER IS CRITICAL FOR YOUR HEALTH
But I know that drinking water all day isn’t easy.
So try Green tea, eating watermelon or other melons like Honeydew or Canteloupe (Muskmelon) or other juicy melons. Drink sparkling water with citrus added like lemon, lime, or orange slices, or even sliced cucumber (maybe hold off on the vodka!)
Once again, at the risk of repeating myself…plain water is the best hydration there is!
Stage 2 – Menopause
You will know that you have passed from peri-menopause into full menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. Typically, this phase happens when you are around early to mid 50’s.
Menopause Can Be Genetically Influenced
Once again, like the severity of symptoms, this can often be influenced by genetics. Meaning that your time of life for menopause can be very similar to when your mother entered menopause.
Many of these symptoms tend to decrease in severity as you pass into menopause. But the truth is that some will stay with you for years. So, the answer is to come up with a plans and strategies to help you deal with them.
Natural Remedies Are Always Best
It’s best that you try to stick to natural remedies whenever possible. Introducing chemicals into an already ‘stressed’ body isn’t the best.
I’m referring to pharmaceuticals such as Hormone Replacement patches and pills. As a nation, we already consume waaayyyy too many processed foods and Big Pharma stuff to kill off a small country.
Natural is always best and now is a great time to get your body used to it if you haven’t before. Trust me…you will really benefit from the change.
However, obviously you may feel unable to cope. Our symptoms vary so much between women that Hormone Replacement therapy may really help you.
It’s always personal choice so chat to your physician for more info…but weigh up the pro and cons carefully.
Stage 3 – Post Menopause
This is the stage in your life when your hormones will stabilize. Many of the symptoms you have suffered through during the previous 2 phases of the menopause cycle will have disappeared.
You may experience more energy than you’ve felt in previous years, although this will be a gradual increase so you may not notice it.
But you will probably feel unencumbered, and if you have kept yourself healthy you will feel ready to take on the world!
Although most symptoms have disappeared by now, annoyingly due to the lowering of estrogen levels there may be some lingering problems to contend with such as vaginal dryness and some hot flashes occasionally.
These will be manageable albeit irritating, as by now I’m sure you will be wishing that all the symptoms would just sod off!
Some Risks To Be Aware Of
However, this is also a time when you can be more at risk for some problems such as Osteoporosis due to the much lower hormone levels.
You may find that you’re less co-ordinated than when you were younger, so it’s very important to avoid the risk of falls or twisting any ligaments and muscles.
You just won’t heal as well at this stage of your life. In some cases, your bones may not heal correctly at all.
Have fun in your new stage of life, BUT don’t take unnecessary risks with your bones.
Also, don’t think that because you’ve reached this stage in your life that you no longer need checkups like breast exams (mammograms), pap smears, and especially bone density tests.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of checkups each year, you have a much better chance of catching something early.
There’s no doubt that this is one of the most challenging, exhausting, and frustrating times in your life. You can plan and have strategies to help deal with it but in the end, you have to persevere and maintain your sanity and sense of humor.
Learn to take these menopausal stages in your stride and refuse to let the symptoms dominate your life. Look after your mental, physical, and spiritual health along the way, and know that it gets easier as time passes.
Your future years are waiting for you, loaded with plans, fulfilling dreams and exciting possibilities. Embrace them.
I really hope you found the information in this post helpful.
As always I would love to read your comments about your experiences with menopause. Please drop me a line below.