Starting menopause might seem like a daunting prospect after having become accustomed to managing your menstrual flow each month. As such, many women might not know what to expect other than an end to this.
A woman experiences so many changes as she matures. From going through puberty and starting her period, to getting pregnant and finally entering the pre- and post-menopause phase. The bathroom cupboard will have seen it all. From teen pads to organic tampons, maternity pads, and more, women’s bodies evolve over time.
However, there’s a lot to be aware of. So, we’ve provided a useful guide on what to expect from menopause as it begins.
Menopause and Perimenopause
What does Perimenopause involve?
By the time women reach around 45-55 years old, they’ll have had an average of 480 periods (less if they have had any pregnancies). During this time, a woman’s hormones will have been on a rollercoaster ride.
Between these ages, for most women, their estrogen levels begin to drop as their hormones trigger one final transition to begin — menopause.
Initially, a woman will be ‘premenopausal’. Her periods will continue with no obvious signs of the change other than hormone levels and these could easily go unnoticed. When this happens, she might still need to carry a trusty pack of towels or tampons as she’ll still be getting her monthly cycle. Over time, this develops into perimenopause, where women will experience symptoms of changes going on in their bodies.
Signs and symptoms
- Changes in your monthly cycle
- Heavier periods
- Altered sleeping patterns
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
Pregnancy risk and flow
While estrogen levels continue to drop, in the final stages of perimenopause it is still possible to get pregnant so it’s important to be aware of this. One of the biggest changes women notice to their cycle is that their monthly flow could become a lot heavier than usual, so it can be helpful to stock up on ultra tampons, helping to keep leaks at bay
How long does it last?
In terms of how long a woman will experience the perimenopause phase, it will vary depending upon a range of factors including genetics, lifestyle, stress, and health, and there’s no set equation for determining how long it’ll last, or when it will begin. It may be useful to have a hospital bag checklist for all the products you may need!
The average age for starting menopause in the UK is 51. A woman may begin to experience symptoms months or years before or after her final period. Some may start perimenopause 8-10 years before entering full menopause.
What can you expect from menopause?
When a woman goes from perimenopausal to menopausal, her ovaries will have stopped releasing eggs, and she will no longer get her monthly period. A menopausal woman will be producing a minimal amount of estrogen, and if she has gone 12 months without a period then she has officially entered menopause.
- Night sweats and sleep disturbances
- Low libido (sex drive)
- Memory or concentration issues
- Discomfort during sex
- Hot flushes
- Vaginal dryness
Again, pinning down a set point for when a woman will begin experiencing these signs and enter the menopause stage isn’t possible. This is because the symptoms could begin months or years before the final menstrual cycle.
How can you manage menopause?
There are many medical and naturopathic remedies used. However it’s likely to take some trial and error finding something that suits you. For women struggling to manage the effects of fluctuating hormone levels, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be offered in the form of gel, tablets, or skin patches.
Low mood or recurrent anxieties may be the most troubling symptoms. If so, then cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) might be recommended by a GP. It can be a helpful method for voicing thoughts and feelings. It could also be beneficial to give light exercise a go. Yoga and tai chi are both great options to consider. For alleviating vaginal dryness or itching, a vaginal estrogen lubricant or moisturizer could provide some relief.
The years following a woman’s last menstrual cycle are referred to as the postmenopausal stage. This is where irritating symptoms such as hot flushes can begin to lessen. As the body will no longer be producing estrogen, women become at higher risk for a range of health conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis so it’s important for women to look after themselves and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Taking a vitamin D supplement has also been found to be an effective way to combat any lingering menopause symptoms as well as keeping any deficiencies at bay.
Getting plenty of sleep each night and limiting alcohol intake can also prove beneficial, enabling the body to recover efficiently. Some natural oils are praised by menopausal women at every stage of the changes. Some popular options include clary sage oil, thyme oil, and peppermint oil, celebrated for their ability to balance hormones naturally.
Herbal medicine could be another route to consider. As a naturopathic remedy, it can be tailored to suit the exact symptoms. Red clover, black cohosh, sarsaparilla, and liquorice root are all associated with treating menopause-related symptoms.
Women’s bodies are certainly equipped to take on a lot over the course of their lives. This is controlled by the all-important hormones which trigger each process to begin. Prepare for each stage of womanhood and find a solution that suits you!
Who is the author?
An experienced and passionate writer, Delilah specializes in technology, travel, and culture. She acquired undergraduate BA (Hons) degree in English Literature from the University of Leeds. Since then, she has gone on to write for many online and print publications across different sectors.