Recently we posted a period fact-check guide to clarify what does and doesn’t actually happen on your period. However, do many of us actually know what happens on the other end of the menstruation spectrum; the menopause.
The Change is often taken for granted as a mysterious physiological phenomenon that only happens when your mum feels a bit too warm and then informs everyone within a 100 yard radius that she is having a hot flush (sorry mum!). The reality is that the menopause is a complex finely tuned process which prepares your uterus to wind down and take a step back from the whole menstruation thing. Let’s take a look at the science behind it.
What is menopause?
The menopause is the process by which your body stops having periods and therefore you are no longer fertile. It is a completely natural part of ageing and typically happens to women ages between 45-55 years old. Other factors, such as hysterectomies, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can also induce menopause. As it is commonly known the hormone oestrogen is integral to a woman’s fertility and her periods. It causes the body to release an egg each month to be fertilized and also thicken the lining of the uterus to be shed every 28 days. Throughout a woman’s life, her oestrogen levels will very slowly decline to a point where she is unable to release an egg and is infertile. This happens over a very long period of time, so there is no need to panic!
Will this change my body?
The change in your hormones can affect many parts of your body such as your brain, skin and muscles. Many women experience the known side effects of the menopause before their periods even stop. This phase is called the perimenopause which can provoke night sweats, hot flushes, little interest in sex, anxiety and low mood. Other symptoms include:
Many women going through menopause are offered Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT to alleviate these symptoms by boosting oestrogen levels. Do bear in mind that every woman is unique, so some women might experience all of these symptoms early on, others may endure a couple of them but for a prolonged period of time.
How will it affect my mood?
Hormones affect your mood, as they interact with the receptors in the brain. When oestrogen levels are low it can lead to anxiety and feeling down. Other hormones can affect your mood during the menopause. Progesterone which is in charge of preparing the body for pregnancy also acts as a catalyst for your period. When an egg hasn’t been fertilised the progesterone levels drop which prompts the uterus to shed the lining or menstrual blood. The testosterone levels in the body can also be in flux during the menopause which can affect energy levels as well as libido.
What the hell are hot flushes?
Hot flushes are a common occurrence during the menopause and many health care specialists pin it down to a decline in oestrogen levels. Many women describe a hot flush as an intense warm feeling across their body and face. Doctors believe that oestrogen has some part to play in controlling your body temperature, however, there isn’t any concrete evidence to support the claim. Generally, hot flushes are manageable, but HRT can be used to get rid of them if they are affecting your day to day life. Keeping a fan nearby, cool water spray and sipping cold drinks can help when experiencing a hot flush.
Will I know when I’m going through the menopause?
A blood test called an FSH test (follicle-stimulating hormone) can give an indicator as to whether you’re experiencing menopause. However, it isn’t particularly accurate as hormones tend to be in flux most of the time, even throughout the day. The best thing to do is pop by the nurse or GP and talk to them about your cycles as well as the symptoms you’re experiencing.
After the menopause, oestrogen levels won’t recover but due to women living for longer, more and more live, work and thrive with menopause so it is nothing to be afraid of. Apart from speaking with your doctor in terms of health concerns, it’s a great idea to start the conversation amongst your friends, colleagues and female family members so you have an open dialogue about menopause.
We always love to hear your thoughts on our blogs so drop us a comment to let us know if you thought it was helpful. Remember to share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, so we can talk openly about it and break the menopause taboo.
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