Don’t mention the M word! It’s what every woman dreads, or so we’re told, but why? When you’re young, you tend to believe that all those hot flushes and ‘old lady worries’ are for the future. While there’s certainly nothing to worry about, there are many myths surrounding the menopause that we’re keen to dispel, in order to get more young women talking about and preparing for this inevitable change.
Menopause generally comes around age 45 to 55, but it’s actually possible for it to begin as early as your 30s, and in rare cases your 20s. So, it’s good to be knowledgeable and prepared, and know that some of the myths you’ve heard just aren’t true. For example:
- You’ll hit 50 and bam! The menopause arrives (Nope. It’s not as simple as one day period, the next day gone)
- You can’t get menopause symptoms while still having periods (Not true! You can definitely experience the symptoms of menopause before your period disappears)
- You’ll get fat (Wrong. Not everyone experiences weight gain during menopause)
- Your sex drive disappears (Wrong again. Everyone’s libido acts differently)
- You can’t prepare for menopause (False! And we’re about to tell you why…)
Menopause tends not to be discussed. It’s seen as a sign of ageing, and therefore something that a lot of women feel ashamed about. In fact, menopause comes to us all, so at Yoppie we believe in having more open, honest conversations about it, so that every woman can feel prepared and comfortable when it arrives. Menopause can’t be prevented, but there are things we can all do to make it a little easier and more comfortable.
First of all, what is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
Perimenopause begins several years before menopause does, and is when your ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. This phase usually starts in your 40s, and lasts until the ovaries stop releasing eggs altogether, which is called menopause.
Menopause officially means you haven’t had a period for 12 months, but many women find that it’s not as black-and-white as this. That’s why the term perimenopause tends to cover the ambiguous period before menopause. Perimenopause lasts on average four years, but some women experience it for as little as a few months, others as much as ten years, depending on the individual.
What are the symptoms?
The only symptom of menopause that seems to be openly talked about is hot flushes, with many a comedy movie poking fun at this side effect.
In fact, you could also experience weight gain, loss of energy, forgetfulness, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, trouble sleeping, hair thinning and loss, anxiety or depression, or a combination of a few. These symptoms are all completely normal, but two things are important to know;
First, you do not have to live with being uncomfortable. If symptoms are affecting your life, visit your GP to discuss possible treatments to minimise the negative effects. Secondly, know that if you are feeling scared or depressed about the changes, this is also very common and normal. Your body may start to feel a little alien due to all the unexpected things it’s doing. Try not to bottle these feelings up. Talk to your GP about a plan of action.
Also, don’t be afraid to talk about menopause with your partner, your friends, and anyone you trust who may be able to understand and support you during what is undoubtedly a difficult time for lots of women. Menopause has notoriously been known as a topic that just isn’t talked about, so don’t be afraid to start those conversations.
“I was forced into menopause by chemotherapy - a bit of a double whammy! But I have to say I sailed through with the exception of the hot flushes, which still show up 8 years later at the most inappropriate times. A paper fan is now my best friend! I certainly don’t miss periods as they were always exhausting, and I enjoy the freedom this time of life gives me. The good news is my friends are in the same boat so we can always laugh about it.”
-Wendy, Mum of Yoppie Team Member Caitlin
How can young women prepare in advance?
If you haven’t yet hit this period in your life, there are some things you can do to prepare your body for the change.
- If you have worries about your impending menopause (due to a family member’s experience or past health concerns) discuss this with your doctor. They may suggest you have your blood tested, which will offer insight into your hormone levels, specifically your estrogen, testosterone and thyroid. Knowing how these fluctuate can help you identify changes to come, and rule out any other health issues.
- Get clued up on everything. Menopause research is developing every day, so keeping up to date with the latest scientific advances and remedies for symptoms will automatically put you ahead of the game when you begin to experience the signs. The information can be overwhelming, but simply knowing what to expect will stand you in good stead.
- Chat to older women in your life. Not everyone will want to discuss the topic, as it’s still considered somewhat taboo to the older generation. However, if you have the opportunity to explain why you want to learn more, you may want to ask about their personal experiences and advice on how best to manage the change.
- Take your health seriously, no matter your age. Considering your diet, implementing a regular exercise routine, and actively working to reduce your stress levels can all make positive impacts on the menopause symptoms you experience later in life.
Got questions about menopause? Noticing symptoms? Tell us about your experience! Chat to us over on Instagram @itsyoppie and let’s start a much-needed menopause conversation.