It’s menopause Awareness Month – just saying.
Menopause is a transition in our lives, for some women it takes over their lives, while others simply sail through.
Yet it is almost a taboo subject, women all over the world go through menopause but it’s not often something discussed. It is a natural part of life for women and as we get older, periods stop, and our bodies adapt to these changes. Some see that as a “new chapter in their life” with lots to look forward.
Menopause, like menstruation, is a little-discussed topic, even though it affects half the population.
What is the “menopause”?
The menopause is defined as the absence of menses (‘periods’) for 12 consecutive months, a result of the decline in oestrogen levels due to the normal ageing process (WHO 2007). Menopause, is derived from the Greek menos, meaning month, and pausos, meaning ending. The loss of ovarian follicular activity results in hormonal changes in the female body triggering physical and emotional symptoms. Natural menopause typically occurs in the midlife period between the ages of 45 and 55 years (NHS 2018), with the average age of women reaching menopause in the United Kingdom (UK) by 51-52 years, although women can experience menopausal symptoms outside this timeframe, 1 in 100 women experience menopausal symptoms before the age of 40 (NHS 2018).
Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life, and it includes three stages, perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause (Hobson 2020). This transition can start up to five years prior to the last menstruation and is considered to be completed after 12 months without menstruation (Royal College of Nursing (RCN) 2019). Some women can experience symptoms of menopause before the age of 40 and this is referred to as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).
What are the symptoms?
Menopause Symptoms generally appear from age 45 onwards and can last more than ten years. Women may experience hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, difficulty sleeping, low mood and/or anxiety, reduced sex drive, problems with memory or concentration, headaches, palpitations, joint stiffness, aches and pains, reduced muscle mass, recurrent urinary tract infections and increased risk of developing osteoporosis (NICE 2017).
Why do we need to talk about menopause?
These uncomfortable, or in some cases, debilitating, aspects of the menopausal life-phase are a concern for workforce populations dominated by women, particularly if these women decide to self-manage their discomfort or distress by reducing their work hours or retiring early.
In countries where the population is ageing, one third of a woman’s life is spent in the peri-menopausal, menopausal, or post-menopausal phases of life. In 1990 there were 475 million menopausal women, and by 2030 there will be 1200 million menopausal women. A significant number of women are working in female dominated professions such as nursing and teaching and of those employed 75-80% of women are of menopausal age and may experience symptoms that impact working life.
A great book to open this subject is Menopause – the change for the better which provides accessible evidence-based reading.
It is World Menopause Day #WMD on 18th October and the School of Health and Social Care is holding a webinar on this topic from 1200-1400
Sally Roberts RN, RM, MSc, DFSRH, PGA Med Ed SRH, FRT Contraception, Relationships And Sexual Health Consultant
Clare Shepherd Nutritional Therapist NHF.Adv.Dip FNTP, Health Coach, Speaker
Please join on Zoom https://essex-university.zoom.us/j/97789449591?from=addon