The menopause process can take several years and is said to begin when a woman hasn’t had a period for a year.
The average age for menopause is 51 and the years leading up to it are known as perimenopause, as hormones begin to fluctuate, triggering a range of different symptoms.
The key hormones are oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone and changes in their balance can cause effects as soon as early 40s (and sometimes earlier), often continuing after the menopause has arrived.
Every woman will have her own unique experience and sometimes this can be difficult and uncomfortable. Most women will experience:
Hot flushes and night sweats
Lower sex drive
Anxiety and depression
Severity of menopause symptoms can vary, but hot flushes and night sweats are among the most complained about. It’s a sudden, intense sensation of heat that creeps across the body, followed by excessive sweating and flushing of the skin. It can be disruptive and embarrassing.
The experience can be an emotional rollercoaster and the changes can be a very challenging part of menopause. It’s not unusual for a woman to feel a range of different emotions as her hormones fluctuate, like sadness, irritation, anger, being tearful, easily overwhelmed, or unusually anxious.
As well as having to overcome all this, often there are other mid-life changes happening, such as caring for ageing parents, for teenage children, or where children are leaving home, and/or holding a responsible position at work.
All this coming together can equal tremendous pressure, possibly causing a woman to question herself, her future, her role in life.
And of course, it can have a significant effect on sexual relationships. Falling testosterone can lower a woman’s sex drive and affect her ability to reach orgasm, and declining levels of oestrogen can cause vaginal dryness, making sex painful or uncomfortable.
A changing body self-image can affect confidence in the bedroom, causing a feeling of unattractiveness, or low self-esteem.
It’s important for you to be patient and to encourage her to talk. Be a good listener, fully present. Your support is vital and will make all the difference now and in the future. Take her seriously; it’s not voluntary, she’s not faking. Give her time and help her to feel more loved and supported than ever. It will be over.
I can help you if you need to talk in complete confidence. Believe me, I understand.
I’m not a qualified clinician, dietician, or psychologist, or anything! I write based only on my own experiences, personal views, and research into menopause, and the fact that I want to help women. Please always seek the advice of a professional. Jacky Wood