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What is the menopause?
The menopause is when a woman’s periods stop and she is no longer able to naturally get pregnant. The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually takes place between 45 and 55 years of age. The oestrogen levels in your body will decrease causing you to stop ovulating and your periods to become less frequent and eventually stop. This can take a few months, years or they can stop suddenly.
How long does the menopause last?
The menopause and menopausal symptoms can last from as little as a few months to a few years. Every woman is different and so is their experience of the menopause.
What is the early menopause?
Early menopause is when the menopause takes place before the age of 45. Premature menopause can happen at any age and most of the time the cause is not clear, however it can happen natural or as a response to certain treatments. For example radiotherapy and chemotherapy, used to treat cancer, can cause premature ovarian failure which in turn results in early menopause.
If your menopausal symptoms are affecting your daily life and stopping you from completing tasks, then there are treatment options for you to consider.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – taking oestrogen to replace the decreasing levels in your body can help to relive symptoms associated with menopause. HRT is available in tablets, patches and a gel that you can apply to your skin. Although this treatment is effective it also has side effects and it is not advisable for some women who have had breast cancer.
- Vaginal oestrogen – this will help to alleviate vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex. It is put inside the vagina in the form of a pessary, cream or vaginal ring and can be used alongside HRT. Over-the-counter vaginal moisturisers and lubricants can also help to lesson vaginal dryness.
- Anti-depressants – these can be taken to help manage mood swings, low moods and feelings of anxiety which affect many women during the menopause.
If you are feeling more anxious than usual you can also take measures to make yourself feel better, making sure that you get plenty of rest, take regular exercise and doing other relaxing activities like yoga could help to improve your mood. It’s also important that you remember that you’re not alone, your feelings are valid and there are a lot of women who are going through the same thing as you.
Before deciding on a treatment you should talk to your GP about which option would suit you best, as they can talk you through the side effects and benefits of each one.
If you’re experiencing the menopause you may find your symptoms to be frustrating and uncomfortable, adding supplements to your daily routine could help to make your symptoms more manageable. Vitabiotics and multivitamins can help to support your body, giving it the essential nutrients it needs and a helping hand. Extracts such as sage and green tea can help to counteract hot flushes and fatigue, while ingredients such as soy can aid the rebalance of hormones.
It’s also worth remembering that a balanced diet and regular activity can also help to ease symptoms as well as boost your overall health.
Can you still bleed after menopause?
If you are over 45 and haven’t had a period in over a year then you have more than likely gone through the menopause. If after this time you notice any bleeding from your vagina you should visit your GP.
Even if it:
- has only happened once
- it was a small amount of blood, spotting or discharge
- you don’t have any other symptoms
- you’re not sure if it’s blood
Postmenopausal bleeding is usually nothing to worry about; however it can be a sign of inflammation in your vagina or womb, non-cancerous polyps or less commonly cancer.
Yes, you can still become pregnant during the menopause although your periods may be less frequent than usual. It is possible to naturally conceive until your mid-fifties.
In the years after the menopause you can still experience menopausal symptoms. Hot flushes and other hormonal signs will become less intense; however you may experience other changes, such as weight gain and vaginal dryness.
Yes, as you go through the menopause your ovaries produce less oestrogen which means that the levels of Follicle-Stimulating Hormones (FSH) in the body increases. A menopause test can detect an increase in the levels of FSH and so will be able to tell you if you have begun the menopause.