Navigating the menopausal journey
WITH Dr Amanda Goulding, GP Consulting at Banksia Medical Centre
Menopause is a natural and inevitable phase of a woman’s life, which marks the end of her reproductive years.
However, for many women, menopause can be seen as a source of shame and embarrassment, something that they do not want to discuss openly due to the associated stigma.
This stigma could partly be due to the lack of representation and discussion of menopause in the public and cultural sphere. Menopause is seldom addressed in movies or on TV, which can lead women going through it to feel overlooked. This lack of visibility might also result in some women failing to connect their symptoms with menopause. Additionally, when menopause is seen in pop culture, it is often portrayed in a negative light, with images of older women as frumpy, out-of-touch or grumpy.
The pervasive attitude that menopause should not be discussed can lead to a lack of understanding and support and can have severe consequences for a woman’s physical and mental health.
It is essential to challenge these stereotypes, promote positive and realistic representations of menopause, amplify the voices of women who are going through menopause, and celebrate the strength and resilience of those who are navigating this new stage of life.
Many women believe menopause is the same for every woman. In reality, the symptoms, onset, and duration of menopause can vary significantly from woman to woman. Early identification of menopausal symptoms is essential to facilitate timely intervention and support. Symptoms can include hot flashes, mood fluctuations, disrupted sleep, skin irritation (itchy, crawling, or dry), fatigue, vaginal dryness, diminished libido, bodily aches, bloating, urinary issues, and weight gain. Being mindful of these signs can empower women to seek suitable medical guidance and explore a range of treatment choices, ultimately enhancing their quality of life.
Managing and addressing menopausal symptoms involves a personalized approach, as each woman’s experience is unique. Women may need to explore various options to discover the best treatment for their needs. Before embarking on any treatment, gathering accurate and dependable information is essential. Many women successfully navigate mild menopausal symptoms without the need for medication or therapies. Some find relief through a healthy lifestyle, incorporating nutritious eating and regular exercise.
However, women facing symptoms that significantly impact their quality of life may opt for medications and therapies. An in-depth discussion regarding your symptoms, potential risk factors, and various choices, including the effectiveness of Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT), non-hormonal therapies, and complementary approaches with a knowledgeable doctor can empower women to make informed decisions about the available treatment options.
Throughout the menopausal phase, self-care becomes paramount. Embracing a healthy lifestyle is critical to alleviating many physical and emotional symptoms that can surface during any stage of menopause.
The presence of menopausal symptoms can pose challenges to engaging in physical activity. When women do not feel like themselves during this phase, it can become difficult to adhere to regular exercise and nutritious eating routines. However, A healthy diet and physical activity remain crucial components of overall well-being, particularly as we age. It diminishes the likelihood of chronic disease, minimizes the risk of falls and osteoporosis, and contributes to weight management while also assisting in managing menopausal symptoms.
After menopause, women have lower levels of oestrogen, which can affect bone health and put them at greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Adequate Vitamin D, calcium and weight-bearing exercise can support bone health and help avoid falls and osteoporosis.
Quality sleep is vital for everyone, but it is particularly important for women during the menopausal phase, as inadequate sleep can exacerbate menopausal symptoms.
During menopause, hormonal fluctuations can lead to mood swings and emotional shifts, often causing feelings of low mood, irritability, and anxiety. For those who experienced anxiety before menopause, symptoms such as hot flushes can exacerbate that anxiety. Symptoms such as night sweats can affect mood and lead to fatigue, irritability, or depression. Additionally, life circumstances, such as relationship issues or heightened stress, can contribute to depression during this life stage. Women who are dealing with strong emotions, anxiety, or depression should seek advice from their doctor.
Hormonal shifts during menopause can result in a decreased sexual desire, which is entirely normal.
Nevertheless, this change can be disheartening and potentially impact interpersonal relationships. Women who have concerns about experiencing diminished libido should have an open conversation with their doctor, who can offer various solutions to enhance women’s sexual well-being. For instance, they may recommend exploring options like Menopausal Hormone Therapy, employing vaginal moisturizers or lubricants, or considering estrogen-based treatments to alleviate vaginal dryness.
One of the most critical steps in dispelling the stigma surrounding menopause is for women to embrace the changes they are experiencing. This means permitting themselves to talk openly about their experiences and seeking the support they need to manage the physical and emotional symptoms. By understanding that menopause is a natural process and that it does not have to be feared or seen as a source of shame, women can start to find the acceptance they need to navigate this new stage of life.