your mid-life transformation
Well, that’s something of a tricky question, because officially menopause only lasts one day.
Yep, it’s defined as 12 months to the day after the end of your last period and it will happen on average at age 51 for women in the Western world.
Everything else we hear about is actually peri-menopause and post-menopause.
Fantastic, I hear you say, so what’s all the fuss about?
Well, what we generally think of as “menopause” is actually the whole transitional life phase between around 45 and 60 years old (give or take a few years, and with lots of exceptions).
During this time our hormone levels (mainly oestrogen and progesterone but also testosterone, believe it or not) first start to fluctuate and then decline dramatically, which has all sorts of effects on our bodies and our brains.
Luckily, there are things we can do to make this “second puberty” (that’s how I describe my experience of it) as comfortable as possible, and use the positive aspects of it to bring with us into the next phase of our lives.
And even more luckily, people are starting to talk about it. What has been a taboo subject for so many years has now gone mainstream and women everywhere are getting together and talking about their experiences.
Like in a recent online Menopause Meet-up group I facilitated, with participants from Germany, Ireland, the US and France. Five women from very different cultures and backgrounds came together once a week for five weeks to share our stories and put together a toolkit for this life transition.
Here’s what they said about the experience:
Susan creates a friendly atmosphere where I’ve felt more and more comfortable over the weeks. She gives tools to help us navigate this period and she knows how to engage each member of the group, especially by drawing on our strengths. This is a great experience and I trust that it will be very useful in weeks and months to come.
The Menopause Mentor group was a very rewarding experience. It was unlike anything I have done before, and I felt very comfortable in a safe, non-judgy environment, even with a group of people I hadn’t known before. I’d strongly recommend this for anyone going through menopause who wants the support of other women and under Susan’s empathic guidance.
Susan’s group has helped me learn more about what I am experiencing at this phase of life, and to deal with the questions and anxiety surrounding it. She provides a structure where women can share knowledge and their personal experiences, as well as support each other. I’ve learned a lot of valuable and practical exercises in how to manage the symptoms and emotions I’m experiencing, and it is very empowering.
Right from the beginning Susan made me feel at ease. With a variety of exercises and tasks she keeps everyone engaged as well as excited. In the safe space that Susan created I enjoy the depth of the conversation. I learn a lot by listening to what others share, and get many impulses to question my own thought and belief systems.
The symptoms of menopause can vary widely and include:
Perimenopause is the transitional stage leading up to menopause, while menopause is defined as the point at which a woman has gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
Both stages are marked by a decrease in oestrogen production and can cause a range of symptoms.
Women’s bodies go through a variety of natural changes as we age.
As we approach our late 30s and early 40s, our ovaries gradually begin to produce less oestrogen, the hormone responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and supporting fertility.
This reduction in oestrogen production continues until the ovaries no longer produce enough oestrogen to trigger ovulation and menstruation, which typically happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
Menopause can have various effects on the brain due to the changes in hormone levels that occur during this time.
Some of the ways that menopause can affect the brain include:
Menopause can cause weight gain due to a combination of hormonal changes, aging, and lifestyle factors. One of the primary factors contributing to weight gain during menopause is the decrease in oestrogen production, which can lead to a redistribution of body fat from the hips and thighs to the abdomen. This increase in abdominal fat can increase the risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Other factors that can contribute to weight gain during menopause include:
While weight gain during menopause can be frustrating, there are various strategies that can help manage weight and improve overall health. These include regular exercise, a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, stress reduction techniques such as meditation, breathwork or yoga, and getting adequate sleep.
Menopause can have a variety of effects on hair, including changes in texture, thickness, and growth patterns.
Some women may notice their hair becoming thinner or more brittle, while others may experience increased hair growth in unwanted areas such as the chin or upper lip.
Here are some of the ways menopause can affect hair:
While menopause can have a variety of effects on hair, there are various treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve hair health.
These may include medications, dietary supplements, topical treatments, and lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and stress reduction techniques.
It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider or dermatologist if you have concerns about changes in your hair during menopause.
Menopause can have a significant impact on sleep quality and quantity for many women. This is due to a variety of factors related to hormonal changes and other physical symptoms that can disrupt sleep. Here are some of the reasons why menopause can affect sleep:
To improve sleep during menopause, there are a variety of strategies that can be helpful.
These include practicing good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol, establishing a regular sleep schedule, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider if you are experiencing significant sleep disturbances during menopause.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, making them more prone to fractures.
Menopause is a major risk factor for osteoporosis because of the significant hormonal changes that occur during this time.
Oestrogen plays a key role in bone health.
It helps to maintain bone density by slowing down the process of bone breakdown and stimulating bone formation.
During menopause, oestrogen levels decline sharply, which can lead to accelerated bone loss and an increased risk of osteoporosis.
To help prevent or manage osteoporosis during menopause, there are several strategies that can be helpful. These include:
It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider if you are concerned about your risk of osteoporosis during menopause.
They can help you develop a personalized plan to manage your bone health and reduce your risk of fractures.
Menopause is a time of significant hormonal and physiological changes that can impact mood and mental health. Many women experience symptoms of depression during menopause, and there are several reasons why this may occur:
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression during menopause, it’s important to seek support from a healthcare provider. There are a variety of treatments that can be helpful, including hormone therapy, antidepressant medications, and psychotherapy. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, stress reduction techniques, and social support can also be helpful in managing symptoms of depression during menopause.
Menopause itself is a one-time event that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
It is defined as the point at which a woman has gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
However, the symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, and mood changes, may start during perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) and continue for several years after menopause.
This period of time is called postmenopause, and it can last for an average of 4-5 years but may continue for up to 10 years or more.
The duration of menopause symptoms varies widely among women.
On average, women experience symptoms for around 4-5 years, but some women may experience symptoms for only a few months, while others may have symptoms for 10 years or more.
The severity of symptoms can also vary widely, with some women experiencing only mild symptoms while others have more severe symptoms that interfere with their daily lives.