Menopause-It is worth talking about
For many women, the menopause begins an exciting new chapter in life. Freed from the constraints of fertility, women may feel they can take on new challenges and explore new directions. Yet as women face the reality of ageing, the menopause can bring mixed blessings. Some felt strongly that the media and society as a whole tend to stereotype older women.
What is Menopause?
Sally Hope is a retired GP. She is a researcher with a special interest in women's health.
She is the co-author of several books on the menopause (see ‘Resources and information’), and talks about the menopause from a medical perspective. You’ll
also find clips from Sally’s interview in some of the other topic summaries. As a menopausal woman, Sally also has a personal interest in the menopause.
What is the menopause?
Menopause means the ‘last menstrual period’. However, many women say they are ‘going through the menopause’ when talking about the time leading up to their final period when they notice changes in their menstrual cycle and the onset of symptoms such as hot flushes and sweats. Women are said to have reached the menopause when they haven’t had a period for one year. In the UK the average age at which women reach the menopause is around 51, however, some women can go through the menopause earlier or later. A menopause before the age of 45 is an ‘early’ or ‘premature’ menopause (see ‘Early (premature) menopause’).
Women often ask
how long the menopause is likely to go on for. It varies a lot. While a third of women have no symptoms at all, most women have at least two or three years of ‘hormonal chaos’ as their oestrogen levels decline before the last period. This is called
the perimenopause. Women are said to be postmenopausal any time after their last period. However, a small minority still have hot flushes in their eighties.
What are the symptoms?
Irregular periods and hot flushes and sweats are usually the first signs that the menopause has begun. Other symptoms that may occur include sleep disruption, loss of sex drive (libido), vaginal dryness, urinary problems, joint and muscle aches, changes in skin and hair, weight gain, anxiety, mood swings, depression, and poor memory and concentration.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether symptoms are caused by the menopause or by other factors in midlife. Women may be working full-time, caring for teenage children as well as elderly parents, or going through marital problems - all can add to the burden of coping with menopausal symptoms (see ‘Family, health and life events’).
For some women, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) continues to offer relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes by replacing oestrogen. It's available in many forms including tablets, cream or gel, a skin patch or an implant (see ‘Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)’).
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is recommended for some women, for effective relief of severe menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and in young women following early menopause up until about 50 years old. As with any medication, HRT has benefits and risks and these should be discussed with your doctor. For most symptomatic women under 60 years or within 10 years after menopause, use of HRT for up to 5 years is safe and effective, Most experts agree that if HRT is used on a short-term basis (no more than five years), the benefits outweigh the risks (NHS choice 2015). However it will not be suitable for some women because of their medical history.
How can GPs help women through the menopause?
According to Sally, women sometimes consult their doctor during the menopause for reassurance that their symptoms are ‘normal’ and that they are ‘not going mad’. She sometimes runs menopause evenings to talk about women’s health issues and to provide an opportunity for ‘women to get together and talk over a coffee’. She acknowledges, however, that lack of time, knowledge and interest in the menopause can make it difficult for GPs to provide the type of support which women need at this stage of their lives (see ‘Consulting the doctor’ and ‘Advice for health professionals’).
For more information, please visit www.healthtalk.org as well as the NHS Choices website at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Menopause/Pages/Introduction.aspx
NICE Guidelines are posted on http://www.menopausematters.co.uk/ along with lots more information and leaflets that can be downloaded about the menopause and treatments available.
The guideline, Menopause: diagnosis and management’ is available at:
The BMS is an organisation aimed at the medical profession but has a series of informative factsheets to download on the menopause.
The Daisy Network
The Daisy Network Premature Menopause Support Group is a charity for women who have experienced a premature menopause.
This website offers easily accessible, up-to-date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options so that women can make informed choices about menopause management.
NHS Choices Live Well
The NHS choices section on the menopause includes information on symptoms, HRT, early menopause, self-help tips, advice for partners, and food and the menopause
Women’s Health Concern
Women’s Health Concern (WHC) is part of the British Menopause Society aimed at patients. They provide an independent service to advise, reassure and educate women about their health concerns.
You may also be interested in our resources on General Health and Medicine and Mental health and wellbeing.
Read more: http://www.healthtalk.org/peoples-experiences/later-life/menopause/resources-information#ixzz3yP4yEbxS
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