14 June 2019
How to cope with the menopause: The Last Female Taboo?
As a woman in my late 40’s I have been following the recent publicity on how to cope with menopause and the growing acceptance that is allowing women to talk more freely about their struggles. The impact of menopause on women, husbands, fathers, children, male colleagues and employers can be at least awkward if not life changing. Breaking the unspoken female taboo can help all affected by menopause understand and be encouraged to address the symptoms that can control our family and work lives so deeply.
The perimenopause years usually start when a woman is in her 40s, but it can start as early as the age of 30.
At this time in a woman’s life, her body is going through many physical and emotional changes as hormone levels shift. The first thing many women notice is a change in their periods. They may become irregular, heavy or scanty. We reach menopause when there have been no periods for 12 months in a row.
We all know that hot flushes are a common menopausal symptom. However other symptoms such as breast tenderness, low sex drive, fatigue, vaginal dryness, bladder weakness, irritability, anxiety and depression are also experienced and can last for only a few months or up to ten years. Not all of us will have symptoms and the reasons why some women struggle whilst others don’t is still being researched.
A specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapist can help those suffering from bladder problems manage the symptoms through prescriptive exercise plans.
A healthy balanced diet should be varied and rich in nutrients. Eating at regular meal times is much better than irregular eating. Big gaps between meals causes tiredness and make symptoms such as hot flushes and irritability worse. It also helps to cut down on coffee, alcohol and sugars in your diet. Supplements can help but there are a whole host of them on the market, do your research and choose higher quality products.
Practice relaxation technique such as tai chi and yoga. Consider mindfulness techniques and meditation. Reflexology and massage can also help to relax the body and mind. A calm mind allows more focus to help us cope with the menopause.
If going to the gym is not your thing, why not try a dance class! Brisk walks, cycling and even cold water swimming (if you are brave enough), can be really helpful. Find something you enjoy as regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight, speed up your metabolism and increase your muscle mass. Exercise also reduces stress and can improve the overall quality of your life. A group of cold water swimmers recently said that plunging into sea temperatures as cold as 6 degrees helped them cope with the menopause. See more
HRT (Hormone Replacement Treatment) is a standard treatment for menopausal symptoms. Speak to your GP to see if this is a suitable option for you. They will be able to discuss any risks that might be associated with HRT, which of course is a concern for many women.
Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants for symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety or irritability.
The advice and guidance I have given here is not a substitute for medical advice given by your GP. The NICE guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Menopause can be found here.
Like many others I have spoken to, I followed “BBC Menopause Week” last month on BBC Breakfast. I found it a very positive and refreshing experience. It encouraged me to open up conversations with patients, friends and family members, something we should all be able to do to help unload the burden that many women feel. See more here!