As with every stage in life, there's an overwhelming amount of information online and it can often be a little daunting. Here at Lil-Lets we've compiled the basics you need to know about the stages of menopause and the symptoms you can expect so you feel empowered to manage them.
Let’s get one thing straight: whatever you’re feeling and however much or little menopause research you’ve done to date, you most certainly are not alone. There could be as many as 13 million women in the UK in either the first (perimenopause) or last (post-menopause) stage. Whatever your menopause story, rest assured we’re here to give you plenty of advice and support to help make your own menopause experience manageable.
As surprising or unwelcome as it might be, the menopause is a natural part of a woman’s ageing process, with its effects predominantly impacting those aged 45 to 55. Sometimes it can be earlier, sometimes later.
The menopause marks the end of the menstrual cycle, when your ovaries gradually stop producing eggs and as a result, release less oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The resulting effects and symptoms of the menopause depend, to a certain extent, on a few factors; genetics, whether you have a healthy lifestyle, underlying medical conditions, surgery or treatments.
There are three phases involved in the whole process:
As we’ve mentioned, the menopause process occurs in phases. The pre-amble to the menopause is referred to as ‘peri-menopausal’ or ‘menopause transition’ and generally happens gradually. Periods become less frequent, with longer intervals between, until they stop altogether. For some women their periods stop suddenly.
But it’s the resulting drop in the hormones oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that can play havoc with you emotionally and physically, sometimes up to 10 years before you reach menopause.
Once you’ve had 12 months period free, you’ve reached menopause and would now be classed as ‘post-menopausal’. So, when people refer to ‘being menopausal’ they’re more often than not referring to the symptoms experienced in the ‘peri-menopause’ phase, but ‘being peri-menopausal’ doesn’t quite run off the tongue as nicely!
As your ovaries stop releasing hormones, your oestrogen and progesterone levels drop, in turn causing you all sorts of emotional and physical turbulence. If we put it into perspective, because there are oestrogen and progesterone receptors in nearly every organ and tissue in your body, it’s only natural that many parts of your body will be affected. While the changes are completely normal, the effects of the menopause are no less impactful.
Loss of oestrogen affects the brain, and can cause memory fog, anxiety, sleeplessness, social phobia, a loss in motivation and emotional upheaval as well as physical affects like lethargy, hot flushes, vaginal dryness, and a resulting reduced sex drive. So, it’s safe to expect you may feel a little out of sorts while going through the motions.
OK, so it’s not all fun and games but it’s completely natural to experience some of the following:
Remember, if you’re finding your symptoms hard to manage, do contact your doctor straight away, even if it just puts your mind at ease.