Welcome to our Menopause Information Page
Given we have oestrogen receptors in every single cell in our bodies, it is little wonder that we can experience such a wide range of symptoms as this hormone reduces over time.
It has been co-produced by women, for women, as a useful starting point to help us to understand and deal with the changes our bodies are going through.
The menopause can have one of the biggest impacts on our lives at a point when we are often more stretched personally and professionally than ever before. Many are supporting ageing parents, whilst also helping young adult children to flee the nest, at the same time as holding down a demanding daily job.
Dr Tomlinson, a GP in the Vale of Glamorgan, and a registered member of the British Menopause Society, gives a whistlestop tour of the menopause in less than 4 minutes.
There are many myths and old wives’ tales about the menopause. We put some of these to a specialist GP to find out which are true and which are not. If you have any further questions please consult your own GP.
Click on each myth to reveal the facts about menopause.
The average age for a woman to enter the menopause is 51, but anything between 45 and 55 is normal. Some women in their 30’s can experience an early menopause, with some women as late as their early 60’s.
Bladder tissue does tend to thin during the menopause and the urethra becomes more prominent, making incontinence and urgency an issue for some women. However, pelvic floor exercises, vaginal oestrogen treatments (cream, pessary or gel) and medications can help.
Whilst it is true that hormonal changes cause the body to store more fat around the abdomen and thighs during the menopause, it is certainly not inevitable that you will gain weight, but you may need to tweak your diet and increase your exercise slightly to compensate.
You can start HRT from the moment you experience symptoms of the perimenopause. In fact, there is an argument for taking HRT as a preventative measure, as studies show it provides long-term health benefits for many women, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, fractures and heart disease. New studies also now show a possible reduction in the risk of getting Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Women worry most about dying from breast cancer in relation to HRT. There is only a slight increased risk of getting breast cancer with long term use of HRT (over 5 years). Being obese or drinking more than 2 units of alcohol a day both increase the risk of breast cancer more than taking HRT. More women die of heart disease than die of breast cancer. Most breast cancers are treatable/curable.
HRT, if started by the age of 60 or within 10 years of the menopause, can help prevent cardiovascular disease. There is no evidence of an increased risk of cardiovascular illnesses such as heart attacks or strokes from taking HRT. There is, however, evidence to suggest the risk of bowel cancer is reduced in women who take HRT. Furthermore, HRT may protect against or help osteoarthritis and joint pain, and help control glucose levels for those with Type 2 diabetes.
Therefore, many women weigh up the slight increased risk of getting breast cancer with the huge improvement in their quality of life after taking HRT, and decide it is a risk they consider worth taking, particularly when balanced with the health benefits of HRT in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.
Hot flushes are the most common symptom, but not all women will experience them. 3 out of 4 women unfortunately will.
Your own symptoms may be different and not immediately obvious, but arm yourself with a list of recent changes you have noticed. Anxiety and low mood plus a dwindling libido are also very common perimenopausal symptoms.
HRT has many associated health benefits for many women. Our life expectancy has increased vastly, so that we may now live post-menopausally for 30 years. Our bodies have an oestrogen receptor in every cell and when we are deficient in oestrogen, our bodies may benefit from replacing that oestrogen with body identical hormones.
(Also see information for myth no. 5)
If you have a history of migraine, you could opt for HRT in the form of a patch or gel (transdermal) rather than a tablet, but you can take HRT.
False. There is no maximum length of time you can take HRT for. It depends on your individual circumstances, risks and benefits, and personal choice. You can remain on HRT indefinitely.
If you experience menopausal symptoms after stopping HRT, you would have experienced them even if you had never been on it.
During perimenopause and menopause, our muscle mass declines due to lower oestrogen levels and some types of exercise are more effective than others.
Find an activity or exercise that you enjoy
Do weight bearing activities like walking, lifting weights, Pilates, yoga or using a cross-trainer. Not only will it ease menopause symptoms such as the loss of muscle mass and energy, but it will help with anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances.
Exercise can offer invaluable head space, plus release endorphins (happy hormones). The most important thing you can do is reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down. Stand as often as you can and walk to your destination wherever possible.
Yoga can help soothe hormonal symptoms in perimenopausal women by stimulating the glands responsible for regulating hormones.
In short, exercise is vitally important to improve mood, keep weight stable and increase bone density.
Mindfulness is the new buzz word and can seem elusive in our modern frenetic world. However, all it really means is practicing being present in the moment, letting go of stress and worry. There are plenty of Mindfulness apps which you can download.
Tai Chi is another type of Mindfulness activity you could take up. It also helps muscle mass and balance.
Click here to read more about the benefits of Tai Chi and to watch our videos of seated and standing Tai Chi exercises.