Ruth Devlin of the fantastic coaching consultancy Let’s Talk Menopause has been helping us to demystify this time of life for the lucky ones who don’t have to go through the experience first hand! As well as her brilliant Menopause for Men Guide, she’s created a straight-talking, down-to-earth menopause symptom overview to help men (and women!) understand exactly what’s going on…
These symptoms are classed as short term symptoms, but for many women certain ones can feel as though they are lasting a lifetime. As with any symptom. Each woman will experience these symptoms in completely different ways, with differing intensities and will respond to different treatments.
- Hot flushes – they affect 75% of women, each woman experiencing them in very different ways with differing intensities. That means she’s either going to look like she’s having “a wee glow” or like she’s just come off a squash court – get the picture?
- Night sweats – those two words speak for themselves, make sure rooms are well ventilated, you might have to get used to arctic temperatures for a while! Encourage the wearing of natural fibres like cotton or bamboo and hydrate well throughout the day.
- Palpitations – can often accompany hot flushes and can be alarming, always get checked out by your GP if worried; rarely at this time of life is it the effect of you walking into the room believe me…well past that now!
- Problems with bleeding – irregular, heavy periods: all woman should get any change to their regular cycles checked out. Oestrogen deficiency can cause all sorts of problems. Make sure if experiencing heavy bleeding that ‘she’ is not anaemic as well. There are various medications that can be prescribed which can help or having a Mirena coil inserted can really help.
- Joint aches: Not often associated with the menopause but oestrogen plays an important role in the maintenance of joint and bone health.
- Fine motor skills can be affected: has she been dropping much lately?
- Insomnia and disturbed sleep: if she has been experiencing even half of the above symptoms more than likely sleep patterns will be disturbed.
- Weight gain: women’s metabolic rate slow downs at this time of life accompanied by hormone fluctuations it can take a bit of tweaking and nudging to diet and exercise levels to get back on track.
- Bloating: some women start reacting differently to certain foods – keep a food diary to find out which foods may be triggering this.
Common phrases associated with the psychological symptoms are ‘Brain fog” and “Red Mist”, which both aptly describe how sometimes your brain can feel during the perimenopause; like it’s wading through treacle!
When I get onto these symptoms during a menopause workshop, I see the sheer relief pass over women’s faces when they realise that they are not the only ones suffering from these symptoms and that – hurrah – they are not going completely bonkers after all!
Don’t forget there will be other contributing factors causing these symptoms not just hormonal imbalance. We are often referred to as “the sandwich generation” within a family, squidged in between those equally hormonal teenage children (who come with their own set of challenges, the little darlings!) and our ageing parents, who can become increasingly challenging too, but in different ways.
So it’s no wonder that, with all this to cope with, and the added stress of those flipping, fluctuating hormones getting thrown into the mix that women often feels a tad under pressure. They may, as a result, get angry and irritable, display irrational, out-of-character behaviour and have heightened emotional sensitivity. This is ALL completely normal and understandable. DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!
Psychological symptoms can include…
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Low mood swings – very different from clinical depression
- Panic attacks
Genitourinary – that’s reproductive and urinary to you and me!
I would like to tell every woman I meet to LOVE YOUR VAGINA! Women should pay as much attention to their vaginas as they do their faces – seriously – think how much money is spent on facial products!
Vaginal symptoms can be some of the easiest to treat yet usually go unreported with so many women putting up and shutting up… fear not, help is at hand!
There is a huge range of vaginal moisturisers and lubricants on the market which can help to hydrate and moisturise (internally and externally), if those don’t hit the mark then vaginal oestrogen can be prescribed by your GP – this is a tiny dose compared to systemic oestrogen and can have really good results.
One other very important area to address is the pelvic floor… this goes for you too (oh yes you have a pelvic floor too, what do you think is holding up your bits and bobs?!)
Every woman should do regular pelvic floor exercises this not only helps with vaginal issues it can help with all the urinary ones too and by doing them you and she could experience better orgasms – no brainer really!
Reproductive and urinary symptoms can include…
- Vaginal irritation, dryness, soreness
- Vaginal atrophy (thinning of tissues)
- Vaginal infections – oestrogen deficiency alters the acidity of the vagina making some women more susceptible to infections.
- Urinary problems – frequency, urgency, leakage, recurrent UTI
- Overactive bladder
- Reduced sex drive/loss of libido
- Intercourse can be uncomfortable/painful
There you have it – menopause symptoms in a nutshell. If a woman you’re close to is experiencing any of these and needs help, our Symptom Tracker could be a good place to start. It’s a handy shortcut to expert advice from experts including top gynecologists, friendly GPs, been-there personal trainers, Relate counsellors, even celeb make-up artists! It even recommends helpful products too, all in one handy place…
About Ruth Devlin
After experiencing an array of perimenopausal symptoms herself and realising the lack of consistent information available at the time, Registered Nurse Ruth Devlin decided things had to change. Teaming up with like-minded women from healthcare backgrounds, she co-founded Let’s Talk Menopause to raise awareness about the menopause, demystifying it and most importantly, providing easy access to information and support. She is a member of the British Menopause Society and has liaised with menopause specialists to establish what women really want, and need, to know about the menopause. It’s no surprise, then, that she has appeared on everything from Radio 4s Woman’s Hour to the BBC Insider’s Guide to the Menopause documentary with Kirsty Wark.