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Menopause


Menopause is a normal part of aging that occurs in women, usually, between the ages of 45 and 55

and is caused by the ovaries producing less reproductive hormones. Eventually, a woman’s periods

stop permanently and she can no longer get pregnant [2]. Although every woman has a different

experience of menopause, it is recognised to have different stages over several years.

Perimenopause, also known as the menopausal transition, is the time leading up to menopause,

where periods start to become irregular. During this transition into menopause, levels of hormones

such as oestrogen and progesterone begin to change, which can cause physical and emotional

symptoms. Although not all women experience them, common symptoms of perimenopause

include:


- Hot flushes

- Trouble sleeping

- Problems with memory or concentration (brain fog)

- Mood changes, such as anxiety, mood swings, irritability, low mood, and self-esteem

- Muscle aches and joint pains

- Headaches and migraines

- Slowed metabolism and weight gain

- Skin dryness and thinning hair

- Reduced sex drive

- Vaginal dryness and pain or itching [1] [2] [3]


Menopause is recognised to begin 12 months after the last period [1], but whether or not someone

experiences symptoms, and how long the symptoms last, differs from person to person depending

on different factors such as smoking, race and ethnicity [3], as well as genetics and ovary health [4].

Symptoms can last anywhere from a few months to several years, with some women experiencing

perimenopause years before or after their last period. Some women may also find that their

symptoms change over time, for example, hot flushes and night sweats may improve, but then low

mood and anxiety may develop. Menopause can also cause symptoms that are less noticeable such

as a loss in bone density, which can cause osteoporosis - a condition that causes bones to weaken

and break easily [5].


Dealing with menopause and everything that comes with it can be challenging and can interfere with the overall mental health and wellbeing of women. Many women feel burdened by their symptoms, making it difficult to enjoy life the same way as before. Although the perimenopause and

menopause are something that will affect all women, there is still a stigma around the subject. Some

people may not feel comfortable talking to others about the menopause, but campaigns such as

‘Let’s #ChatMenopause’ aim to start a conversation and encourage women to share their experiences [7]. As we learn more about the stages of menopause and different women’s experiences, we are finding out the best ways to manage and treat symptoms.


There are some different treatments that can be used to treat symptoms of menopause if they are

severe or affecting quality of life. Many women decide to start Hormone Replacement Therapy

(HRT), which replaces the hormones that are at low levels [2]. HRT can help to reduce hot flushes

and night sweats, brain fog and mood swings, as well as prevent against osteoporosis, and it can

come in different forms such as skin patches, tablets, or a gel [2] [4]. There are also non-hormone

alternatives that can help with specific symptoms, such as hair treatments for thinning or sleep

medications for insomnia. Lifestyle changes can also be beneficial to reduce symptoms of the

menopause, such as keeping cool or carrying a fan, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, limiting

alcohol intake, and taking vitamin supplements to improve energy levels and sleep [4]. Therapy can

also be effective in managing feelings of anxiety, mood changes and depression, for example


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which can also be helpful for sleep problems and fatigue [8]. At

Surrey Therapy Practice, we have experienced and friendly Psychologists and CBT Therapists,

working in person or online, that can help treat symptoms of anxiety and depression, so please get

in touch if you want to find out more.


References:

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