Menopause has long been considered a health taboo, this time of life has been dreaded, mocked and has not been open for discussion. These days, the discussion around women’s health is gaining more and more traction and menopause is now being spoken about much more candidly than before. It is important that women speak up and openly about menopause so the stigma can be banished.
Whilst your body makes the natural transition to menopause, you may experience the symptoms of perimenopause. Such symptoms include irregular periods, headaches, bloating, breast tenderness, hot flushes, dry skin, weight gain, thinning hair, poor sleep, mood swings, and anxiety.
The average woman reaches menopause at 51, although around one in 100 women experience premature menopause before the age of 40. Symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, hair loss, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, and reduced libido. It is estimated that there are more than 40 symptoms of menopause.
Many people feel that there is a lack of support in the workplace for menopausal women – symptoms can have a negative effect on work and hormonal imbalance can impact concentration. A recent study found that four in 10 women said hot flushes at work had a negative impact on their confidence. The Labour Party has recently called for companies to allow women extra time off work, a reduced workload or more flexible hours, claiming that some women are leaving their jobs because of the stress and stigma attached to this phase of life.
Our calming hormone, progesterone starts to decline during perimenopause, causing changes in mood. So in addition to the physical symptoms, the drop in oestrogen can also trigger depression, low mood and anxiety. If you are experiencing symptoms, a blood test from your GP can measure hormone levels and confirm a diagnosis.
Menopausal mental-health concerns can affect anyone, but some studies suggest those who’ve struggled with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or postnatal depression, who may have a higher sensitivity to hormones may be predisposed. Hormone therapy such as HRT or estrogen therapy is the most common treatment for the symptoms of the menopause, but if you are looking for a non-pharmaceutical treatment, or need some extra support while on medication, talking therapies are a good option.
If you are suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of the menopause, a great way of combating these feelings is so undertake a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), other psychological support, or mindfulness may also be useful. CBT has been shown to treat menopause symptoms by reducing hot flushes and night sweats in a number of studies. It works by modifying negative thought patterns and behaviours by encouraging somebody to become more aware of their negative thinking – challenging their own thoughts. CBT has also been shown to treat other mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
If you are feeling stressed, take some time to prioritise your self care. The latest studies show that mindfulness can ease anxiety, while mind-body exercises such as yoga can help reduce psychological difficulties associated with menopause.