The menopause is a natural phenomenon that occurs when a woman stops ovulating, which means that she is about to have no eggs and produces much less oestrogen than before. Women no longer experience monthly periods and start to notice various unexplained signs and symptoms such as hot flushes, mood changes, loss of sexual drive, a dry vagina and painful intercourse. Many women experience symptoms of depression, irritability and feel less attractive and more insecure about their bodies.
Miss Kate Maclaran is here to help women get through the menopause with ease and answer commonly asked questions about this major transition in every woman’s life.
How do I know if I’m going through the menopause?
The menopause can begin at any age and is marked by periods stopping altogether or by irregular periods with long intervals. This could be a sign of early menopause if you’re aged 45, and below 35 it is considered premature menopause. However, a hormonal imbalance or contraceptives can delay or stop a period, so it’s best to visit your gynaecologist if you’re experiencing long delays or very irregular menstrual cycles.
What are typical menopausal symptoms?
The vast majority of women, around 80%, experience some menopausal symptoms and for 25% these are described as severe. Estrogen receptors are found all over our body and so low estrogen can give rise to a wide variety of symptoms such as:
- Menstruation changes (irregular periods, every two or three months)
- Periods changing in heaviness
- Hot flushes
- Mood swings
- Low confidence
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- Weak hair and nails
- Dry skin
- Memory loss
- Loss of concentration
- Premature ageing
How can I tackle symptoms of the menopause?
There are many different options for managing your menopause transition. It is important to get holistic, individualised advice based on your circumstances so you can understand what options there are for managing your symptoms and also how to optimise your long term health.
Diet and lifestyle measures can be very helpful in managing menopausal symptoms and also to reduce your risk of health conditions which increase after the menopause such as heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia.
In terms of treatments, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most commonly used treatment. There are also complementary/alternative therapies and non-hormonal treatment options. Ideally all women would have a discussion regarding their individual risks and benefits of each of these treatment options.
The most effective treatment for the menopause is HRT ( hormone replacement therapy ) which restores your body’s hormonal balance of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
- Prevent mood swings, lower your risk of depression and increase your confidence
- Improve your ability to concentrate
- Prevent loss of collagen, so keeps your skin firm
- Increase your sex drive and help to lubricate your vagina, so sex is less painful
- Strengthen your hair, skin and nails
Does HRT cause breast cancer?
This is a myth. HRT provides your body with oestrogen, that all women have naturally and there is no risk of breast cancer if you choose to have HRT. However, it’s always advised to speak to your doctor about HRT before undergoing therapy to rule out any signs of cancer that might be accelerated with doses of oestrogen.
Are there natural supplements that can help me with the menopause?
There are very few women that can’t have HRT, perhaps if they have had a history of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, hypertension, uncontrolled diabetes and other health conditions such as cancer. In these cases, soya capsules with natural oestrogen-like effects can be used as an alternative and can be purchased over-the-counter in stores. Patients can also use natural supplements that can be bought at Queens Clinic.
Can I be menopausal, but still have periods?
It’s a commonly held belief that if a woman is still menstruating, she is still fertile and ovulating, which is false. Sometimes periods can continue, even without ovulation but that is not relevant to menopause. Certain tests can tell if a woman is menopausal or not. The menopause can be confirmed by history, blood tests, examination and ultrasounds. If women are going through the menopause, they will have higher levels of FSH and LH hormones and a reduced amount of plasma estradiol. Observing the timing of menstruation and a pelvic ultrasound can help determine if a woman still has an active ovarian function.
Every woman is different and so menopausal symptoms can vary, some may continue to menstruate without ovulating, while others won’t menstruate at all. The severity of symptoms can also vary, so detecting the menopause can be more difficult in certain cases.
Are you going through the menopause and would you like an appointment to talk about your symptoms? You can schedule an appointment with Miss Kate Maclaran on her Top Doctors profile.