FAQs – Menopause & Symptoms of Menopause
We’ve set out below the most common questions that women and those around them have asked. We hope they might help you too.
What are the main menopause symptoms?
Most women would say that night sweats, hot flushes and mood swings are typical although every woman’s menopause is unique. Other common symptoms are forgetfulness (don’t worry your memory will come back), aching joints and weight gain. Some women complain of heavy irregular periods, feeling bloated or abdominal pain. These can also be symptoms of something more serious, if you experience these you should consult your GP without delay.
How do I know I’m having the menopause?
Technically the menopause is the date of your last period. You can only be sure you’ve had your menopause when you haven’t had a period for a year. A blood test (via your GP) or a pee test like a pregnancy test (Menopause testing kit) can be done at home. Both tests will only give an indication that your symptoms are because of the menopause. Repeat positive tests will make the results more conclusive.
How long do the symptoms last?
Two to five years is fairly typical for women who experience symptoms although around 20% of women avoid any significant symptoms at all – luckily for them!
Does HRT stop you going through the menopause?
Hormone Replacement Therapy aims to reduce menopausal symptoms. There is evidence that it can (in many cases) help with hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness and insomnia. It may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bowel cancer. On the other hand, many women suffer side-effects from taking HRT such as bloating, weight gain and mood swings. There is no evidence that it maintains ‘youthful’ looks and it cannot reverse the underlying end of fertility, which the menopause marks. Many women have problems coming off HRT feeling almost as if it has only postponed the menopause. This is alleviated by reducing the dose slowly and supporting your body with a healthy diet, regular exercise and relaxation.
What age do you go through the menopause?
The average age for the menopause is 51 (although symptoms may start earlier). Reaching the menopause before the age of 45 is called ‘early menopause’ and before 40 is called ‘premature menopause’. Late menopause can occur although by the age of 54 80% of women have stopped their periods.
Why am I putting on weight around my waist?
At the menopause, declining oestrogen levels change how your body stores fat and unfortunately it accumulates around your middle, rather than on your hips and buttocks. Don’t crash diet! Fat is where your post-menopausal body makes oestrogen (along with the adrenal glands) and low oestrogen increases the risk of osteoporosis. Your body needs a reasonable balance of oestrogen – so a few curves are good!
What can I eat to help?
Soya is certainly one of the menopausal ‘superfoods’, plants that contain phytoestrogens (plant chemicals which are thought to help during the menopause, by balancing the oestrogen in your body). Organic, whole bean, fermented soya such as Tofu and Miso are the best. Other ‘superfoods’ are beans, lentils, vegetables and some fruits. Nuts and seeds are great for their ‘good fats’. Eating wholefoods and plenty of natural fibre is important too. By trial and error, you may also discover that certain foods and drinks make your symptoms worse. Caffeine and alcohol are frequent culprits; try cutting them out for a few weeks and see if it helps.
Why have I lost my confidence?
If you perceive your value to be solely as a lover and mother; your fears will be self-fulfilling. Look around for positive role models in your family, your community and the world at large, for women who have shown how the menopause can be the start of a new chapter in life. Remember that post-menopausal women don’t lose their femininity or attractiveness; they develop a special appeal based on confidence and wisdom.
Why am I so forgetful?
Loss of memory is a normal menopausal symptom. Don’t be unduly concerned and worry that this is how you’ll be for the rest of your life; your memory should come back.
What complementary health treatments could help?
Many menopausal women find aromatherapy oils, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine (including acupuncture), herbal medicine, and Bach Flower Remedies helpful. Although this is not an exhaustive list, we always recommend that you ask all practitioners to explain their qualifications, how their practices are regulated, and what they can do for you. Learn More about Complementary Therapies.
Can you recommend a good menopause book?
There are several on the market, I have found these useful: Menopause – Answers at your Fingertips , which covers all the scientific/medical menopause topics in an easy to understand way; The New Natural Alternatives to HRT which is particularly informative on diet and supplements; and finally Magical Menopause is a fantastic book to dip in and out of when you need some new ideas on how to manage and is very readable.