For many women, menopause can be one of the most difficult stages of life to deal with. But as a woman, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Whether you’re dealing with night sweats or vaginal dryness, there are a number of effective treatments available to minimise your symptoms and make your menopause journey a little more comfortable.
Here’s all you need to know about treating menopause and minimising its uncomfortable and inconvenient symptoms.
What is menopause?
Menopause usually occurs when a woman hits her early 50s (although some women experience symptoms earlier); this is the time when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing an egg every month, which means she’ll no longer have her monthly menstrual cycle and will unable to conceive.
The levels of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone start to decrease, which can lead to various unpleasant symptoms, such as vaginal dryness, mood swings, and hot flashes. Of course, this will vary between women. Symptoms, on average, tend to last around 4 years, but with the right treatment, you can reduce discomfort and make your condition much easier to manage.
What are the main symptoms of menopause?
The onset of menopause is often marked by changes in your typical menstrual cycle, such as unusually light or heavy periods. The frequency of your periods may also change, by occurring more often or being absent for several months before stopping altogether.
Apart from this, there are several other symptoms to be aware of — it’s not just hot flashes that you need to be prepared for! Recognizing these symptoms can be useful in understanding your body and feeling more prepared for the road ahead.
Hot flashes affect up to 75% of women during menopause and are characterized by a sudden sensation of heat in the upper part of the body. The face and neck may become red, blotches may appear on the chest, back, and arms, and heavy sweating is usually followed by cold chills. These episodes typically last a few minutes, occurring every few hours for some women and only a few times per week for others.
As the body undergoes significant hormonal changes, it’s common for women to experience vaginal dryness and increased irritation. Why? Well, the decline in estrogen levels that occurs during menopause can cause a thinning and drying of the vaginal walls, resulting in itching, burning, and pain during sexual activity. While vaginal dryness is a normal part of the aging process, there are many treatment options available to help women manage this symptom and maintain their sexual health and satisfaction.
Did you know that menopause can affect your sleep, too? Low progesterone levels are just one reason why some women find it more difficult to fall asleep and sleep undisturbed throughout the night. Other factors such as night sweats or waking up more frequently to use the bathroom can also contribute to poor sleep.
Going through menopause creates big physical changes, but it can also affect your mental well-being. Hormonal changes can impact your mood and may even cause you to feel a little ‘lost’ within yourself — although this is completely normal, it’s super important to take care of your mind as well as your body.
Hormones have a significant impact on cognitive function and memory, which may result in increased forgetfulness, difficulty recalling names, misplacing personal items such as keys, excessive list-making, and reduced ability to retain information. Brain fog is a common symptom experienced during menopause, but certain lifestyle changes can improve brain health.
Aches and pains
Feeling achy is a natural side effect of getting older, but menopause can also contribute. Estrogen affects your cartilage (which is the connective tissue in joints) as well as the replacement of bone, and so plays a part in inflammation and pain. Staying active can help you overcome aches and pains related to menopause.
Which treatments can reduce menopause symptoms?
Many women choose HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as it can help relieve most of the common menopause symptoms. HRT is designed to replace the hormones estrogen and progesterone that decrease during menopause, and there are many treatment types available (such as estrogen-only or combined HRT) depending on your needs.
If you’re suffering from vaginal dryness, irritation, pain during sex, or painful urination, vaginal HRT tablets can ease your symptoms. They are inserted directly into the vagina, where the estrogen is gradually released into the vaginal tissue to help with discomfort and pain.
Low sex drive is normal during menopause and postmenopause, primarily due to a decrease in the sex hormone testosterone (while a low mood or decreased self-esteem may also contribute). In some cases, testosterone gels can be used by women to improve their sex drive and energy levels. It may be offered alongside HRT.
What lifestyle changes can improve menopause symptoms?
Although medical treatments for menopause are available, there are several non-medical alternatives that can be highly effective in alleviating symptoms. These treatments can often be effortlessly integrated into daily routines; whether it’s engaging in a brisk walk outdoors or changing your diet, these options offer valuable relief and support during menopause.
Eating a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can significantly improve menopause symptoms. For example, foods that are high in phytoestrogens, such as soybeans, flaxseeds, and chickpeas, can help reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Additionally, incorporating calcium-rich foods like leafy greens, dairy products, and fortified foods can help strengthen bones, which can become more fragile during menopause.
One way to manage menopause symptoms is through regular exercise. Incorporating exercises like yoga, strength training, and aerobic activity can also help reduce joint pain, which is a common symptom during menopause. Moving your body more is also great for your mind. Even a quick 10-minute walk can make your body feel better and improve your mood.
Trying herbal supplements
Herbal supplements have been used for centuries to address various health concerns, including menopause. Many herbs, such as black cohosh, red clover, and dong quai, have been shown to alleviate menopause symptoms, as they contain phytoestrogens that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, providing natural relief. It’s best to get guidance from your doctor about which natural treatments are best.
With all of the changes your body is going through, it’s only normal that you might not feel 100% yourself. Therapy can provide a supportive and safe space for women to discuss their concerns and emotions, helping to alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. You’ll also have a safe space to explore and adjust to new life goals, roles, and identities.
Menopause is a natural part of life for a woman, but it’s important to note that every woman’s experience of menopause is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Explore your options, speak to your healthcare provider, and choose a treatment that works for you.