When it comes to destroying the taboo that surrounds topics of feminine wellness, we have come a long way. Women now feel far more comfortable talking about periods, bikini waxes and even smear tests, but somehow we haven’t quite tackled the dreaded M word.
Just the mention of menopause can make many of us shudder, the younger generation of women associating it with our mothers and even grandmothers continue to reassure ourselves that we have an entire lifetime before we have to encounter that.
However, with celebrities such as Davina McCall discussing the effects of perimenopause and menopause and opening up honest conversations about the natural changes that occur in women’s bodies during this period, alongside snazzy brands offering menopause products that are designed to make you feel sexy no matter your age.
It is high time we started to feel less shame and more empowerment when entering this new phase of our lives.
If you haven’t heard of the term “perimenopause”, then you are not alone. When many women mention going through menopause, they are actually talking about perimenopause. This is the transitional stage our bodies go through when they prepare to stop ovulating.
Perimenopause is when the female body slowly begins to reduce its estrogen production. This can occur in one year or gradually over several years. Menopause symptoms may start to occur at the end of this stage. The woman has periods and is still capable of becoming pregnant during this time.
Although this transition is often associated with middle-aged women, it can often start much earlier. It’s possible for women to start to notice changes in their mid-30s. Most women arrive at menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but perimenopause can start as much as a decade beforehand, about 1% of women reach menopause during their 30s and early 40s.
The most telling symptoms are changes to your menstrual cycle. According to Dr. Hadine Joffe, “It’s the menstrual cycle pattern that really defines this lead-up to menopause, during perimenopause, periods might be shorter, then a long one, or then a skipped one, or then the flow might be different.”
Surprisingly, sometimes doctors aren’t prepared to help women recognize the start of this life phase as it is individual to every woman and there is virtually no way to test for these changes. This is often where much of the misunderstanding and embarrassment surrounding menopause conversations stem from, but with more information on this topic than ever women are finally stepping into this new phase with confidence.
While many of us associate menopause with years of hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms, you will actually find that the menopause itself is not what causes these troubles.
According to Dr. Jennifer Payne at the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins University; “Technically, menopause is only one day in a woman’s life, which is exactly when she has not had a period for 12 months,” she says. “It’s the period of time leading up to menopause that causes all the trouble.”
Another common misconception surrounding perimenopause is that a woman in this phase cannot get pregnant. Perimenopause is not an instant change, think of it as a gradual slow down of your reproductive system. During this time, the level of hormones produced by your ovaries will fluctuate from month to month, so there may be times when you’re still quite fertile, even if your cycles are irregular. According to Emory University, women over 40 have one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies because of this misunderstanding.
Many women also believe that oral contraceptives or birth control pills will postpone perimenopause. The pills will regulate your menstrual cycle and suppress monthly ovulation. But just because your ovaries are taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come back to life as soon as you decide to stop taking the pill.
That being said, studies have found that taking the pill can significantly curb perimenopause symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, brain fog and mood swings by keeping your hormones steady.
Entering the perimenopause phase does not have to come with doom and gloom. With so much more information available, it is entirely possible to take control of this time and embrace your new self with confidence.
The most important step to embracing this time is to educate yourself. Understanding what is happening to your body will equip you with the knowledge you need to cope with symptoms and make decisions about how to tackle them. Whether you opt for HRT or other treatments to deal with more specific symptoms, it is ultimately your choice. Watch empowering documentaries such as Davina McCall’s, Sex, Myths and The Menopause or download the Free Balance app to keep an eye on symptoms and better understand the changes to your hormones.
Practice self care. It seems like a simple step and something we all should be doing, but don’t underestimate the power of reducing stress and getting enough sleep to ensure your body is not overwhelmed and to protect yourself from things that may worsen your mood or wellbeing.
Finally, never feel alone. Whether you speak to a doctor or expert to help inform you of the changes your body is experiencing or just call a friend to discuss symptoms and trade helpful advice, there is an entire community of women out there experiencing the same symptoms as you and the more we share, the more open we become to these natural, biological changes that are occurring.
Every woman is different and so is every menopause experience. Symptoms will differ from one to another and there is no sure-fire way to know what to expect. There are however a few products that many swear by to keep symptoms at bay. Here is a run down of some menopause must haves.
Pause Well-ageing not only shines a much needed spotlight on the subject of menopause, they also affirm that beauty gets better with age. Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms of hormonal changes during menopause. This innovative Cooling Mist is a bestseller due to its ability to instantly cool and calm. It cleverly creates the sensation of lowering your body’s surface temperature, reduces redness and evaporates sweat. Formulated with the brand’s Pause Complex – a fusion of vitamins, antioxidants and peptides – it fuels collagen production to lift, firm and tone skin while also minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles too.
In China, women use an empowering phrase to describe menopause: they call it ‘The Second Spring’ and MPowder believes that the way we experience menopause could be intrinsically linked to nutrition. Meno-Boost is uniquely designed to nutritionally support your body once you’ve had 12 consecutive months without a cycle. Aside from easing an array of side effects such as hot flashes and low energy and mood – this vegan-friendly supplement also counters the nutrient deficiencies that are most common during this cycle. This powder is enriched with red clover to gently target hot flashes and a form of ashwagandha plus maca to respond to fluctuating hormones. It’s also powered by magnesium to promote a healthy mood and combat fatigue, delivering an abundance of vitamins and goodness.
On a mission to prevent the menopause from interfering with skin’s suppleness, the Me-No-Pause Restorative Cream is an intensive, antioxidant rich treatment that instantly boosts skin’s elasticity. Often ignored, the perimenopause phase comes with a number of skin changes. This deeply nourishing cream addresses the natural decline of collagen with a complex of 14 natural extracts, including soothing allantoin, multitasking niacinamide, antioxidant-rich shea butter and replenishing avocado oil, that counters lost elasticity and depleted moisture levels.
If insomnia and irregular sleep are one of your most troubling, menopause induced symptoms, then this one’s for you. This alcohol-free liquid sleep tincture helps you to drift off naturally, using valerian root and passion flower to gently induce a sense of tranquillity. Catnip and chamomile work together to lessen symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, while also easing muscle tension. This powerful formula eases you into a deeper and better quality sleep without any grogginess, to finally help you feel positive about bedtime.