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Menopause

What is menopause?

  • The menopause is when periods stop naturally. This usually happens¬† around the age of 47 to 52, although this varies for every individual
  • As menopause approaches, a woman's periods first become further apart, then the odd period is missed, then they stop.

Symptoms

Not every woman has menopausal symptoms, others may experience some of the following:

  • Hot flushes affecting the face and neck
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia (unable to sleep)
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability

Most of the physical effects associated with the menopause are due to oestrogen deficiency. Pubic hair becomes thinner, the labia flatten and the vaginal secretions decrease which can cause difficulty and discomfort during sexual intercourse. Changes to the skin and vaginal bacteria can also result in bladder infections (cystitis).

Loss of bone bulk and osteoporosis is a natural feature of ageing, but loss of oestrogen speeds up the process in women after the menopause.

The psychological effects of the menopause can also vary. Some feel they have come to the end of reproductive life, viewing the menopause as a significant stage in ageing. Others feel free from the worry of pregnancy, the troubles of the monthly periods, and perhaps the continuous use of contraception.

Treatment

The most common treatment for post-menopausal difficulties is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the main aim of which is to replace natural oestrogen. As with any treatment, there seem to be both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages include:

  • A¬†reduction in vaginal dryness and irritation
  • Osteoporosis may be reduced in the longer term
  • Hot flushes and sleep disturbance will improve

Disadvantages of using HRT may include:

  • Increased risk of developing breast cancer, although this risk remains quite small
  • HRT has also been linked with a small risk of developing blood clots in the legs and lungs
  • Some studies indicate that HRT may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke

The use of HRT can be a complex decision which should only be undertaken after extended discussion with your doctor.

It is not the only option available and alternatives can be discussed to suit your personal circumstances.