The menopause can sneak up on you. You can be feeling normal and then you start to experience some new and strange things. For example, I have never had a headache in my life (other than alcohol induced) and was actually pretty worried when I woke up one day with an uncomfortable stabbing feeling near my temple. It took a couple of days to go without the aid of a pain killer and my mind ran riot worrying what could be causing it. And separately, I started to experience pounding palpitations when I snuggled down to sleep. You can imagine what was going on in my over active imagination! It was only when I read up on the symptoms of menopause that I calmed down a bit and stopped worrying I wasn’t going to die! It was actually a relief when I discovered they were linked to menopause and I knew I was not alone. Obviously I am not saying you should ignore them if you experience such symptoms – that is why we have doctors.
Your doctor is there to help, never ignore anything!
I have trawled the internet and below are the most common symptoms:
- Hot flushes
- Increased perspiration
- Mood swings
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low mood
- Night sweats
- Memory loss
- Change in libido
- Reduced muscle mass
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Breast pain
- Joint pain
- Erratic, prolonged and heavy periods
- Vaginal dryness
That is quite a list, and of course it is not exhaustive. All are pretty ghastly, but at least you know that others are feeling some of the same and you can visit your doctor for some help. Some people breeze through menopause with hardly a flutter, while others can take on the full gambit. Some get it younger and some older. Some inherit the same as their mothers, and some completely different. I have found it particularly helpful to talk to my friends about it. Sharing our symptoms, remedies and stories of radiator husbands can help so much to coping and laughing about it.
One thing though is that if your periods are irregular, you can still get pregnant so if that is not your intention it is best to continue using preventative pressures.
The causes of menopause can result from a number of different things such as:
Natural decline in reproductive hormones, and in your early 50’s your body stops producing eggs hence no more periods.
Hysterectomy. Usually this is when your uterus is removed but not your ovaries so you won’t necessarily start to menopause. However, if you have both your uterus and ovaries removed you can go straight to menopause.
Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can cause hot flushes and menopause symptoms and is not always permanent so it is best to still use birth control measures.
After menopause, keep an eye out for possible medical complications:
Cardiovascular disease. When you oestrogen levels decline, your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. So it’s important to eat well, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
Osteoporosis. During the first few years of menopause you may lose bone density increasing your risk of osteoporosis with your bones becoming brittle and weak.
Urinary incontinence. As the tissues of your vagina and urethra lose elasticity you may struggle with the urgent to frequently pee or an oops moment when you laugh. I like to clench my pelvic floor muscles every time I sit at a traffic light to help fend this off.
Sex. Decreased moisture and less vaginal elasticity can make sex less fun than before. There are some good water based lubricants which might help.
Gaining weight. This bit is truly rubbish. A thickening waist and sticky weight. The only true way to combat this is to eat less and exercise more.
Over time with the help of subject experts, I will try and find ways to address each of these so that we can overcome them and enjoy our lives. But in the mean time, your doctor is there to help – never ignore anything!