The menopause is a topic that many of us will be familiar with. Whether you’re currently going through it, know someone who is, or have come out the other side, it’s often portrayed in a negative light.
However, Nikki Porges, registered nurse in AXA Health’s 24/7 health support line for members, is here to dispel those misconceptions and help highlight that women can be in control of this time in their lives and that they are not alone.
1. The menopause is just hot flushes
Definitely not true. While it’s reported that 3 in 41 women will experience hot flushes, not every woman will experience the same symptoms, and every menopause journey is different.
Hot flushes and night sweats might be more commonly associated with the menopause but there are a whole range of other symptoms that can occur during this time. Just as a few examples, symptoms can include:
- muscle aches and joint pain
- mood changes
- weight gain
- and a reduced sex drive.
With no set frequency or timeframe on how long hot flushes last, this symptom can be difficult to cope with but there some herbal remedies that could help. For example, plant extracts like St John’s wort can help reduce night sweats, but do check with your GP before taking any remedies; as some can react with other medicines you may be taking.
2. The menopause begins at 50
Although the average age for the menopause to start in the UK is 512, this age isn’t set in stone.
The menopause is defined as when there has been an absence of periods for 12 months, after this timeframe a woman is considered post-menopausal for the rest of her life. This could occur anywhere from the age of 45 to 55, and for some women could happen before the age of 42, which is then considered as ‘early menopause’.
It’s a common myth but turning 50 doesn’t mean the start of the menopause.
3. Life will never be the same again
It can be a difficult time with physical and emotional changes taking place and hormone levels dropping, but you can be in control of your menopause journey.
Various steps can be taken to help get you through it. For example lifestyle and diet changes are very useful during this time, as well as looking at what medications or alternative therapies are available. Every woman will choose to manage this differently, but the key takeaway is whatever choices are made symptoms can be managed.
It’s also good to remember there is support available, whether that’s talking with friends and family or looking for support groups online or at work – there is light at the end of the tunnel, and this won’t last forever.
4. Symptoms are only physical
This is another common myth and one that’s important we dispel. With hormone levels rapidly changing during this time, it can cause a range of emotional symptoms, as well as the physical ones.
Mood swings, anxiety, stress, low mood, and a lack of concentration to name a few. If you’ve ever heard of ‘brain fog’ then this is another symptom commonly associated with the menopause, where there’s an increased tendency to forget and a decreased ability to concentrate and remain focused.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be very helpful in managing these type of symptoms, as well as hot flushes and sleeplessness; alongside non HRT-based medication and/or alternative therapies (which can be an option for those women who can’t take HRT).
This type of talking therapy can also help with low mood and anxiety3 caused by the menopause and perimenopause.
The amount of information out there on the menopause can be overwhelming and often confusing to know what is accurate. But asking for support can be a powerful step in helping to gain control of this time in your life and what your mind and body is currently going through.