The menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she stops having periods and can no longer get pregnant naturally. It is caused by declining Oestrogen levels and is a natural part of ageing, On average, menopause occurs when a woman is 51, although it can start from the age of 45 and go on until around 55.
Your periods normally start to become less frequent over the course of a few months or years before they finally stop. For some women, though, periods stop suddenly.
There are a range of symptoms that commonly occur during the menopause. For some women, these symptoms can be quite debilitating. Symptoms can begin months or even years before the menopause and can go on for four years or more after periods cease.
- hot flushes
- low mood
- night sweats
- difficulty sleeping
- vaginal dryness
- reduced sex drive and/or discomfort during sex
- reduced memory or concentration
- joint aches and pains
- low energy
- dry skin
If menopausal symptoms are causing difficulties for you or if you are experiencing them before the age of 45, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. They should be able to tell from your symptoms if you are likely to be menopausal and may suggest a blood test to measure your hormone levels, which will confirm if you are menopausal or not.
There are a number of treatments that can help to ease the symptoms of menopause.
Replacing Oestrogen that is lost from the body during menopause can help to alleviate some of the symptoms. Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, uses tablets, skin patches and gels to replace this lost Oestrogen. There are two types of HRT:
- Combined HRT (combining Oestrogen and Progesterone) – this is designed for women who still have their womb as Oeostrogen taken alone carries an increased risk of womb cancer.
- Oestrogen-only HRT – this is ideal for women who have had a hysterectomy.
HRT is highly effective at relieving some of the symptoms of menopause, particularly hot flushes and night sweats. However, it can cause certain side effects, including breast tenderness.
Oral HRT is associated with an increased risk of blood clots and HRT is not generally not recommended for women who are at high risk of breast cancer, or who have had breast cancer, however other treatment options could be available in these circumstances.
Oestrogen only HRT does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Aside from hormonal treatments, there are many other things that women can do to ease the symptoms of menopause. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly are good self-help strategies. This is particularly important as women are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis (weak bones) after the menopause.
Sometimes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help with low mood, as can other types of talking therapy. Vaginal dryness can be eased using a vaginal Oestrogen cream or lubricant.
Circle Gynaecology is one of only a handful of gynaecology practices in the area to offer a dedicated menopause clinic.
The aim is to offer women who are menopausal or going through the menopause access to a comprehensive range of information and advice on symptoms, treatments and management of the menopause to help them stay fit, healthy and well.