The years before and after menopause (menopause: the point at which a woman has had no periods for twelve months in succession) are also known as the climacteric. For some women the hormonal changes associated with the menopause can begin when they are as young as 40, while others will not be affected until their mid-50s. Most women experience it between the ages of 45 and 70. The ovaries gradually stop producing the hormone oestrogen, and the woman’s fertility declines. This hormonal change can lead to unpleasant physical and psychological side effects.
Symptoms and how they’re treated
Every woman experiences these hormonal changes differently. One third of women experience no ill effects, another third experiences mild to moderate discomfort, and the final third suffers severe difficulties due to menopausal symptoms.
The most common of these are hot flushes and sweating. Some women also experience mood swings, muscle and joint pain, insomnia, weight gain, irritability and depression.
Hormone replacement therapy can help alleviate the symptoms during menopause, but this is usually recommended for severe symptoms and only makes sense if therapy is begun at an early stage when the relevant hormone receptors are still active. Many women prefer to use natural methods, including herbal medicines, which gently support the body as it negotiates the change.
Tips if you’re suffering symptoms
- Alternate hot and cold showers and foot baths, preferably several times a week, can help if you have hot flushes.
- It’s a good idea to dress in layers so you can take off clothes if you start to perspire heavily.
- Exercise regularly. Physical exercise strengthens the body and boosts your general feeling of wellbeing. Cycling, yoga and walking are all good. If you exercise in the fresh air you will also be less susceptible to hot flushes.
- Make sure you eat a healthy diet. Whole-grain products and oestrogen-rich vegetables such as soya, peas and beans are highly recommended. Remember to drink enough fluids.
- Avoid tobacco, caffeinated drinks and alcohol, all of which exacerbate hot flushes and sleeplessness.
Research into the menopause: take part now
SWICA supports the «Fokus Lebensmitte» [Mid-Life Focus] research project which was launched recently by the University of Zurich. It tracks women entering the menopause over the course of one year, provides valuable information to women and is making an important contribution towards our understanding of menopausal symptoms. The project is keen to find women who would be willing to take part. You can find out more about it at: www.lebensmitte.org