Menopause marks a major transitional time for women and some transgender, non-binary and gender questioning people, involving physical, psychological and emotional changes.
With shifting social attitudes and increased dialogue around menopause, many of us want deeper insight into this phase of life and want to be able to talk about it with our loved ones, colleagues and our doctors.
Here I cover common questions women have about navigating the journey.
What causes menopause?
Menopause simply means the end of menstrual cycles and fertility due to diminished ovarian function and estrogen production.
It results from natural age-related declines in reproductive hormones.
The process usually begins in your late 30's / 40s and is complete by your early 50s on average.
While genetics and culture partly determine timing, lifestyle factors like smoking and chronic stress, may have an impact and, some people will go into a sudden or 'cliff edge' menopause, as a reslt of certain medical or surtgical interventions.
What are the stages of menopause and symptoms?
Perimenopause is the circa 2-8 year transition period leading up to menopause when hormone levels begin fluctuating.
Periods may be irregular and common symptoms like hot flashes, sleep struggles, vaginal dryness and mood changes often emerge.
Menopause is technically when you have had your last bleed, howeve, as we do not know when this is, we say we are menopausal after 12 consecutive months without a period. Symptoms may continue during this stage as your body adjusts.
After menopause, some impacts like vaginal dryness or bone loss may persist in the postmenopausal stage when hormone levels are consistently low. But other symptoms tend to improve over time.
This is a key reason why talking to a doctor who specialises in menopause is important.
Do symptoms or changes vary?
The experience of menopause is unique for each person given lifestyle, health status, attitude, culture and genetic variables.
Some will have very mild symptoms for a few years while others deal with more severe or lingering impacts.
The type and mix of symptoms also differs.
So keeping perspective through ongoing self-care and social support makes a big difference in managing changes.
What potential health risks are associated with menopause?
Declining estrogen increases vulnerability for certain health conditions.
Bone density loss raises osteopenia and osteoporosis risk later on.
Heart disease risk may rise without estrogen’s protective effects.
Lower estrogen can contribute to increased pre-diabetes and diabetes risk as insulin regulation is impacted.
Staying active, not smoking, eating well and limiting alcohol helps counteract these increased risks.
Having regular health checks to check for any onset issues can help maximise your overall health and aging process.
What medical treatment options help with symptoms?
If ANY troubling menopause symptoms persist, for example, persistent disrupted sleep, mood or quality of life, discuss options with your doctor. Some ways that they may be able to help with, depending on your medical history and any contraindications include:
Low dose vaginal estrogen improves vaginal dryness and urinary issues.
Hormone Replacement Therapy otherwise known as Menopause Hormone Treatment
Potentially certain antidepressants or blood pressure medication can help if hormones are contraindicated.
Lifestyle tweaks like cooler rooms, layering clothes, meditation and exercise also ease symptoms. There are new drugs in test currently that have been developed to assit with specific symptmos - so keep your dialogue open with your doctor.
How long do menopause symptoms last?
Symptom duration varies widely.
Some women struggle for many years while others feel relief within a few. Vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats often persist from 2-5 years. However, this really does vary hugely from person to person and I have worked woth many people who have still had hot flushes several years longer than this.
Vaginal dryness, deterioration of mood, sleep and thinking ability may go on for some time too.
The key to successfully navigating menopause is to build up your knowledge, speak up for support and never stop advocating for yoursefl - it is entirely manageable with the right help adn support.
Does menopause impact mental health and cognition?
It can. It certainly did with me in the short term.
Hormone fluctuations during perimenopause and menopause coupled with sleep disruption negatively affect mood, memory and concentration in some people.
Depression, anxiety, irritability and mood swings are common complaints. Stress or intense symptoms exacerbate mental health impacts.
While research continues, at this time, evidence is limited in linking menopause on it's own, to increased risk for serious cognitive decline.
Using tools like calendars, to-do lists, setting reminders, exercise and therapy assists with focus. Equally, simply by focussin on one thing at a time has shown to have enormous positive impacts (& not just for menopausal people!)
Does menopause affect sexuality?
Lower estrogen causes vaginal dryness and thinning of tissues which can make intimacy painful. But emotional and relationship factors influence libido too.
Stress, fatigue, body image issues or partner disconnection may suppress desire.
Making time for sensual intimacy, using lubricant, trying positions that ease discomfort, and open communication may help couples stay connected through the adjustments.
I always refer people to the JoDivine.com website for great resources, blogs and further infiormation. Sam, co-owner is a former nurse and provides factual, real life imtimacy and sexual pleasure advice.
How can I best care for myself during menopause?
Self-care is essential now as your needs change. Make health a priority with balanced nutrition, regular exercise and preventive care. Get good sleep and try stress-relieving practices like yoga, therapy or massage.
Join me for my Menopause The Basics course to learn our Seven Steps to Successfully Navigate Menopause. This is a great way to learn the fundamentals of menopause and how to support both yourself, and others going through menopause.
Share feelings openly with loved ones and ask for help. Keep up to date with the latest ressearch on menopause so you know what to expect and how best to support yourself.
Connecting with a menopause specialist or coach provides personalised guidance too. I certify Menopause Coaches, so always have someone to refer you to :)
Rather than dread menopause, view it as an opportunity to recalibrate and celebrate entering your wise, confident years.
With the right knowledge, resources and support, you will thrive!
I'm Lauren, CEO & Founder of Women of a Certain Stage.
With my team, we support employers to become menstruation to menopause savvy & supportive through training, talks and toolkits and we certify Menopause Champions and Menopause Coaches.
Click here to discuss workplace training or Private Executive Health Coaching.