What we wished we knew about the menopause

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Living, loving & learning

Jo and Ann are co-founders of the online menopause resource website www.hotflush.info. Jo, 54, and now text-book post-menopausal, was told by her doctor when she was 50, that she was perimenopausal. Ann, 56, is surprised to find that she’s still perimenopausal!

 
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On discovering that our own menopause journeys had begun in unspectacular ways and unable to find online support that resonated with us, we decided to set up our own website. We offer evidence-based information and advice, positivity and a welcoming ethos to women like us. We’ve learnt a lot along the way, both from our research and from our own experiences.

Here are 7 things we wish you knew about the menopause

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Perimenopause comes before menopause, who knew that?

We knew that the mysterious menopause would hit us at some point in middle age, but we lived in blissful ignorance of what this looked like and when it might happen. Nobody had bothered to tell us that on average, women are in perimenopause for four years before their periods stop. Consequently, we blundered around feeling moody, tearful and at times, murderous, without making the link to our dwindling supply of hormones.

Pandora’s box

Hitting perimenopause can feel like opening Pandora’s box, you don’t know what you’re going to find! There are at least thirty four accepted symptoms of perimenopause that can knock you off your feet. Ann’s frozen shoulder, or ‘fifties shoulder’, as it’s called in China and Japan, was a sign that her hormones were running low. Jo’s itchy, crawling sensation under her skin? Now it had a name, ‘formication’. That new ringing in her ears? Hello, menopausal tinnitus! Who knew there were so many different symptoms?

‘Anxiety, mood swings with occasional tearfulness’

Sounds like the menopause forecast for so many women! Ann, calls these her ‘Shelley Duvall moments’, after a character from the film, The Shining. Anxious about making mistakes, she lost self-confidence and her decision-making hit rock bottom, leading to frustrated outbursts of rage that took her and her poor, unsuspecting family by surprise. Anxiety, is one of the most misunderstood symptoms of menopause and knowing that fluctuating hormones are the cause, really helps.

Leaking when you laugh

We thought that we’d been given a one-way ticket to ‘leaksville’. Stress incontinence caused by weak pelvic floors meant that laughter, coughing, and sneezing, were often accompanied by a little leak. However, with the help of our women’s health physiotherapist friends, we got a return ticket to ‘dryville’. We’ve learned that we’re amongst the 85% of women, who, with the right exercises, can strengthen our pelvic floors.

We all pile on the pounds as we get older, don’t we?

Creeping weight gain meant we had to stop kidding ourselves that those bursting buttons didn’t need action. Hormonal changes effect weight gain and fat gets redistributed around the body, our midriffs were living proof of this. We reassessed our diets. Out went those processed, fatty, sugary foods that weren’t doing us any favours. In came, the healthier plant-based foods, complex carbs, and exercise.

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There’s a smorgasbord of management options

Menopause can be discombobulating but fortunately there are a number of practical steps you can take to be in control. Re-evaluate your diet and lifestyle, consider supplements and alternative treatments. These simple steps could help to improve your overall health and well-being going forward! And for those who can, or choose to take it, there’s HRT. So, something for everyone!

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It’s brilliant on the other side!

The general perception is that menopause is all doom and gloom. Take it from us, once you understand what’s happening, get on top of any symptoms you might experience, as the other side is like nirvana in comparison. No periods, more energy and plenty of living and loving to be done.

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