Let’s get to know the ins and outs of menopause and perimenopause, without all this ‘mature lady’ bullshit. Your gal NESSA is here to tell you what you’re in for.
Have you ever asked your mum about her experience with menopause? If so, you were probably met with a dismissive shake of the head and her reassurance that “it just wasn’t something we talked about it my day”. Just as frustratingly, our media does a pretty shitty job of representing women of middle age. TV leaves a lot to be desired in terms of realistic representations of menopause (and sex, beauty, careers but we’ll save the full agenda for the soapbox).
October 18th is World Menopause Day, and it tackles this gap in our understanding. It encourages those experiencing symptoms to know they are not alone. As always, your gal NESSA is here to chat through everything relating to your bloody beautiful bodies. Let’s get real on perimenopause and menopause.
When does perimenopause and menopause happen?
Just when you’d found your groove with your body, the high maintenance babe that it is, it starts changing again. Menopause happens once you’ve ceased having periods for 12 months in a row, but is preceded by an in-between stage of perimenopause, when your oestrogen levels are dropping but you still get periods.This stage can be months or years, but the average duration is 4 years.
Perimenopause usually starts when you’re in your 40s but can be as early as your 30s. In many cases it quickly follows your baby-making years and can therefore be daunting and difficult to spot.
There’s no balloon popping or menopause showering but you can stop spending a small fortune on tampons - consider that your menopause gift.
Menopause tends to happen between the ages of 45 and 55. The average age for women in the UK is 51. 21, a key to the door! 51, no more blood on the floor!
...But seriously, if you’ve ever leaked all over the floor on the way to the bathroom at 3am, nudging the dog out of the way with your shuffling ankles in a mad dash for reprieve, we feel you. You’re not alone.
What happens to the body during menopause?
We all know our pal oestrogen. Oestrogen is the main female sex hormone, largely produced in the ovaries. It’s responsible for our baby-making and our sassy moods, and takes care of lots of our bodily functions, including monthly ovulation (egg production). As we get older, our ovaries begin to make less oestrogen and therefore our egg store gets smaller. This is perimenopause.
In the last 1 to 2 years of perimenopause, this drop in our oestrogen levels speeds up, and we may start experiencing the joy of menopause symptoms.
Menopause happens when the ovaries completely stop releasing eggs, measured by a full year of no periods. You may find that you’re well on your way to one year of no periods and get an unexpected period, thus having to start counting from month one again. It’s a pain in the arse. Or vagina, you might say.
Spotting perimenopause symptoms
If you’re someone who gets an abundance of hefty perimenopause symptoms, you might scoff at our suggestion that you need to ‘spot the symptoms’, like they’re not already whacking you over the head. However, perimenopause symptoms can be difficult to spot, especially if you already have irregular periods or start perimenopause earlier than most.
Here’s a checklist of symptoms to look out for:
- Hot flushes
- Lower sex drive
- Irregular periods
- Brain fog/poor concentration
- Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing (avoid the trampoline)
- Needing to pee urgently
- Trouble sleeping
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex
- Itchy skin
- Stiff aching joints
- Increased risk of UTIs or thrush
How to reduce perimenopause symptoms
Whilst we accept that the body needs to do its glorious thing, we’re all about self-care. There are certain things you can do to ease your perimenopause symptoms.
When oestrogen levels drop, so too can our feel-good serotonin levels. We can give them a boost by exercising regularly. Exercise has a positive effect on your mood, as well as promoting better sleep and overall health.
It’s the oldest, most unavoidable trick in the book. A healthy balanced diet is the key to keeping your body sustained during perimenopause. Eating well can help you maintain low cholesterol levels and help prevent annoying symptoms. Coffee and alcohol can exacerbate hot flushes, whereas fruits and vegetables can reduce your likelihood of experiencing flushes and night sweats.
Meditation is still this illusive concept that people don’t fully utilise. Essentially, it’s the practice of paying attention to the current moment and sitting with your thoughts so they don’t get carried away from you.
Meditation is a great way of managing your feelings around menopause. Coming to terms with your body changing is as important as tackling the physical symptoms.
Meditation can also promote better-quality sleep.
Changes to your vagina
As your go-to girl on all things vagina-related, we’ve put together some reading on changes to your vagina during menopause. If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, check out our Vagina Victory Oil. It’s a gorgeous natural oil for boosting hydrating when there’s a drought downstairs. Boosting your moisture levels can make sex much more enjoyable, as well as making you more comfortable throughout the day.
Seeking medical help
There’s tonnes that you can do to naturally carry the menopause on her merry way. However, if natural solutions to easing menopause symptoms aren’t cutting it, seek advice from your doctor. There are several medical treatments available, depending on your body’s needs.
If you’re not sure whether to seek a doctor’s help, our rule of thumb is that you should always feel in control of your body. Only you know whether you require a doctor’s help to get a good mental and physical handle on your body’s symptoms.
Putting perimenopause and menopause into perspective
Each of you will come to this article with your own experiences or struggles with fertility, and we’re sensitive to that. We know that starting the menopause can be upsetting, liberating, bewildering and all of the above, depending on your relationship with motherhood.
Whether you’re a mother or not, your body’s ability to make babies is not your defining factor. Whilst having babies is an incredible part of life, experiencing menopause doesn’t make you any less you - and you are a bad-ass warrior,
Love, Nessa xx