Menopause is something every woman goes through around the age of 40-50. This is a naturally occurring part of life that occurs in three stages:
The symptoms of menopause can be unpleasant and uncomfortable. However, there are tricks and tips to help you get through them. Some women may go through premature menopause either due to surgical removal of the ovaries or damage to the ovaries (such as chemotherapy). During menopause, ovaries produce less and less estrogen which results in multiple symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal problems
- Memory issues
- Mood changes
- Painful sex
- Lack of sexual libido
- Urinary issues
- Weak bones (osteoporosis)
Hot flashes are one of the most common menopausal symptoms with 75% of women experiencing them. Hot flashes are a sudden feeling of spreading heat in the upper part of the body. It can sometimes cause the face and neck to become red. So how can I deal with them?
- Track your hot flashes: It is good to identify your triggers. By knowing your triggers you can avoid them and thus prevent a hot flash onset. Triggers include: spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, stress or a hot environment
- Cold water: When you feel a hot flash coming on, drink some cold ice water. It can make the hot flash more bearable.
- Dress lightly: When you feel a hot flash coming on, try and remove a layer of clothing. When you dress, try and wear layers instead of just one warm layer.
- Use a fan: Hot flashes occurring at night care called night sweats. Try and use a fan to cool yourself down at night, during sleep.
- Weight loss: Hot flashes have been found to be worse in overweight or obese women. A study has found weight loss can help prevent hot flashes.
Vaginal problems come in the form of vaginal dryness. The low levels of estrogen make the vagina less elastic and the vaginal mucus glands produce less mucus. This makes the vagina itchy and can make sex painful. What can I do?
- Vaginal moisturizer: You can get over the counter vaginal moisturizers to help lubricate the vagina and help make sex more pleasurable. This can be used every couple of days.
- Vaginal lubricant: These water-based lubricants can be found over the counter in pharmacies and can be used before or during sex to make it more comfortable.
Menopausal women find sleeping difficult and may even have insomnia. Correcting diet and keeping a healthy lifestyle can help improve your sleep.
- Screen-time: Try and limit your screen-time before bed. The screen light signals your brain to wake up rather than go to bed.
- Warm drinks: Try drinking something warm before bed, but avoid caffeinated drinks. Warm milk is a good drink before bed.
- Nap: Try and avoid naps during the day as it will affect your sleep habits. Try and get into a good sleep routine and sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Caffeine: We all know caffeine keeps us awake. Try and avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening as it can make it harder to get to sleep.
During the later stages of menopause, bones become weaker and postmenopausal women tend to get a condition called osteoporosis. This is linked to the low levels of estrogen in the body. Keeping a balanced healthy diet is essential for bone health.
- Calcium: Calcium is essential for healthy bones. Most people get enough calcium through a healthy diet, without needing a supplement. Keep drinking your milk.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium your body needs. Sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D, however, some countries do not get enough sunlight during winter months. You can take some Vitamin D supplements if you’re lacking. Try and spend as much time as possible in the sun during the summer months to help build up your Vitamin D levels for the year.
- Health, W, “Relief for menopause symptoms.” in womenshealth.gov, , 2017, <https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-symptoms-and-relief>.
- NHS, “Menopause and Natural Ways to Cope.” in Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, , 2019, <https://www.hey.nhs.uk/patient-leaflet/menopause-and-natural-ways-to-cope/> [accessed 10 May 2020].
- Huang, AJ, “An Intensive Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention and Hot Flushes in Women Weight Loss Intervention and Hot Flushes.” in Archives of Internal Medicine, 170, 2010, 1161.
- Foundation, S, “Sleeping with a TV & Lights On - National Sleep Foundation.” in Sleepfoundation.org, , 2020, <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/lights-out-good-nights-sleep>.