There has long been a taboo ( it has seemed ) about openly discussing this doorway most women eventually must wander through from one stage of their life into another. Same life, different rules. Did you know that 30% of a woman’s life is lived past menopause? So the loss of periods and possible fecundity does not end your usefulness – rather possibilities transform and change.
Here I speak from experience, having wandered down this hormonal path and out the other end. Intact, it seems. And I can tell you there are some benefits. It happens to all women, usually anywhere between 40ish to mid 50’ish. The important thing to note is that there are no defined definitive ways this happens. It is as unique as each of us are. It can be more difficult or hardly noticable, but there has been a pall of silence or a whispering when noone was looking or listening where experience and ideas were shared woman to woman.
For me, my monthly menses disappeared often and increasingly. Needless to say after being prolifically fertile for most of my adult life, I must admit that usually I lost some sleep worrying I was yet again pregnant when this firs started happening, and was again greatly relieved when I was not. Over two years they ceased completely, finally finished off with the rigorous treatment for my cancer. I know a woman who had a hysterectomy in her 30’s who went through menopause and I know women in their fifties still having their monthlies, so there is no defined rigid cut off date.
Beforehand I had no real idea how it would affect me as it was not openly discussed, so I thought to give anyone interested some facts and observations to help you along this way. I believe there is increasing openness about this experience so this allows those who follow after us will have the benefit of our experience.
Menopause is NOT an illness. It is a stage of life – something each woman experiences in a different way and at a different time. Our mothers suffered in silence but we donlt have to. There is lots of advice and ways to treat the symptoms to make this hormonal passage easier and more pleasant.
It isn’t all bad news. It doesn’t last forever ( 2 to 5 years on average. ) Most women have few symptoms and the freedom from periods and contraception can be liberating. It can be a time to discover new possibilities and opportunities, using your experience and reflection. Women can live 30% of their lives past menopause so there is plenty of time to take on new ideas and explore opportunities.
Strictly speaking, menopause is when a woman’s periods finally stop – if you are under 50, you need to be period free for two years and if over 50, then period free for one year! The changes menopause brings can begin months or years before and are known as peri menopause.
Our ovaries become less sensitive to hormonal signals form the brain which tell them to produce oestrogen and release an egg. Our fertility gradually declines while our brain ( detecting falling oestrogen levels ) sends out signals to produce more and it is this which triggers hot flushes and sweats.
Low oestrogen levels can lead to dryness and so uncomfortable sex, affects connective tissue so wrinkles may appear, breast and pelvic floor losing elasticity and sagging and bone start to lose calcium becoming thinner.
Other symptoms ar4 sleep disturbance, lowered libido, mood changes, memory problems may also have other causes so have a medical checkup or a trial of HRT to be sure they are menopause related.
If your periods started late, you have had an hysterectomy or ovary removal, or your mum had an early menopause you are more likely to have an early menopause as well. This could affect your long term health so if you go through menopause before our mid 40’s see your doctor.
SYMPTOM: FLUSHES AND NIGHT SWEATS
TRY: reducing caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and spicy food. Use cotton nightwear and bed linen. Wear thin layered clothing. HRT – this is safe for lots of women and for severe symptoms this could be the most effective treatment. Try Kalms – a herbal remedy containing valerian, hops, and gentian. Have a small fan beside the bed you may have on JUST you.
SYMPTOM: MOOD SWINGS
TRY: Exercise, 30 minutes, five times a week triggers natural endorphins. Keep blood sugar levels stable using slow release foods such as oats. Magnesium and B vitamins can reduce irritability.
For some women, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks. HRT was launched in the 60’s and is effective in preventing hot flushes/night sweats, dryness and loss of libido. Its use has become controversial since research seven years ago linked it to an increased risk of breast cancer heart attacks and strokes. Current advice is that it should be only for short term ( less than 5 years) to alleviate extreme symptoms. Ultimately this is your decision, but your doctor can help you weigh up the risks.
Black Cohosh: Herb of choice for hot flushes and night sweats, and can effectively balance hormones.
Agnus Castus: Balances hormones. Use alone or with black cohosh.
Red Clover: Contains isoflavones which mimic the effects of oestrogen to help ease flushes.
Acupuncture and homeopathy: A range of homeopathic and acupuncture treatment depending on symptoms.
Phytoestrogens: Plant hormones found in soya, chickpeas and lentils can help ease hot flushes.
This cake is full of and made from natural ingredients which will help alleviate the symptoms of menopause and tastes yummy too. This recipe will make 12 slices and one slice a day is sufficient.
1 medium sweet potato ( 150gm/5oz) peeled and chopped
100g/3.5oz dried figs, roughly chopped
100g/3.5oz soya flour
100g/3.5oz wholemeal self raising flour
50g/1.75ozeach linseeds, pumpkin seeds, ground almonds
100g/3.5oz brazil nuts chopped
half tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
126g/4oz prunes, stoned chopped
26gm stem ginger chopped finely
1 tbs syrup from stem ginger jar
2 medium eggs, beaten
225ml/7.5 fl oz skim milk
1 medium ripe bananas mashed
1.5kg non stick loaf pan
Microwave the sweet potato on high in 1 tbs water for 5 minutes ( until soft). Mash.
Poach figs in 125ml/4oz water for 10 minutes then blend figs and water in electric blender.
Combine flours and oatmeal in a large mixing bowl. Stir in seeds, nuts and spices, then the chopped prunes and stem ginger.
In another bowl combine ginger syrup with eggs and milk, stir in sweet potato mash, fig puree and mashed banana and combine well.
Mix contents of wet and dry bowls and spoon mix into the tin.
Bake in an oven 180 degrees c/350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour until nicely golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Leave to cool and stoe in an airtight container cut in slices. Alternately wrap slices individually and freeze.