From Hot Flashes to Mood Swings: How Many Menopause Symptoms Do You Know About?
There is no announcement when menopause arrives.
Nor does it come with a manual. Or a defined list of symptoms.
No wonder there is so much confusion around menopause.
Symptoms vary from person to person and crop up at different times, in different ways. Everyone's experience through menopause is unique.
It doesn’t tell you when it’s going to start. And it doesn’t let you know that it is finished. That is why we say that you 'are menopausal' 12 months after your last period.
No wonder many of us have no idea what’s going on when it comes to dealing with menopause symptoms. The effects of menopause can be enormous - if - you are not prepared. I know, I wasn't. When I went through my own experience, I mistook it as a mixture of baby brain and early onset dementia.
I was just 37.
I know now, that the key to a better menopause starts with an awareness of the symptoms of menopause. Even that isn’t as easy as you’d think.
Here are just a few of the most common physical symptoms of menopause listed on the NHS website:
hot flushes, when you have sudden feelings of hot or cold in your face, neck and chest which can make you dizzy
difficulty sleeping, which may be a result of night sweats and make you feel tired and irritable during the day
palpitations, when your heartbeats suddenly become more noticeable
headaches and migraines that are worse than usual
muscle aches and joint pains
changed body shape and weight gain
skin changes including dry and itchy skin
reduced sex drive
vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
People often assume that many of these symptoms are simply a part of getting older, rather than being related to menopause.
The symptoms listed for mental health symptoms include:
changes to your mood, like low mood, anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem
problems with memory or concentration (brain fog)
Quite a list!
Altogether, these symptoms can often feel more like a side effect of modern living rather than menopause.
Easy to miss.
Easy to dismiss. Easy to mistake for something else, especially if you consult Dr Google.
But the impact of each symptom can be shouldn't be underestimated. Combined together in a typical menopause (most people get more than just a couple of symptoms) the impact is huge.
With so many symptoms that may or may not appear, it isn’t a surprise that health practitioners and doctors often don’t realise that menopause might be root of the life-affecting symptoms their patients are presenting with.
They end up in a merry-go-round of different symptoms at different times.
So what can be done if we aren’t even sure that menopause might be at play?
I believe that the key to all of this, is to normalise menopause.
By bringing menopause into the open for everyone, we help protect and support individuals in private. Without the right education, without the right support, menopause can leave you feeling very alone, and at a time when you are in the middle of it, you really don’t want to be shouting about it.
You just need to know that that there is support, and that it is perfectly ok - in fact, the right thing to do - to ask for that support.
Did you know that over 13.5 million women in the UK are currently going through menopause?
An estimated 4.5 million of these women are currently in work.
This is why menopause needs to be normalised across society - from school to workplaces and beyond.
Thankfully menopause is now on schools relationship and sex education and it even came up as a topic in a GCSE last summer. Progress!
Understanding the breadth of symptoms, beyond, the ‘traditional’ hot flushes and mood swings, could go along way to helping people realise that they are going through menopause.
There are many other ways to normalise menopause, and taking steps at work is critical to support those of us who didn't learn about it from family members, friends or at school.
Much of my work is around creating menopause savvy workplaces because when you make menopause (& all things menstruation to menopause) at the heart beat of your colleague journey, everyone benefits.
If you are not sure where to get started, or simply want a free resource to expand on the topics in this blog, checkout: Menopause The Basics Course which is held every two months throughout the year.
Or you might want to really get stuck in to supporting everyone with their menopause journey by becoming a Menopause Champion or even a Menopause Coach. Both are wonderful ways to change the narrative around menopause through supporting others on their journey.
Your menopause trainer and speaker