World Menopause Month and World Menopause Day are both celebrated in October — an effort to shine a light on a condition that 12 per cent of the global population are experiencing.
The process is a natural hormonal one but is experienced differently by all women. It can affect sufferers physically but can also have a knock-on impact for work and relationships.
“Awareness on this topic is fundamental and reducing the stigma attached to it is vital so that more people will talk openly about it so it can begin to be normalised and people can get the support they need,” the NHS has said.
According to NHS data, three out of five working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work while nearly two-thirds said they were less able to concentrate. In addition, more than half said they experience more stress while 30 per cent said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms.
Among those who have opened up about the struggles with perimenopause, the stage before menopause, is double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes. The 53-year-old former athlete, who is from Tonbridge, said earlier this year: “Perimenopause is killing me at the moment. As much as I’m in denial, it definitely has had an effect on my body.
“It’s not a nice feeling, especially as someone who has been in tune with their body.”
Find out below what menopause and perimenopause are, and how they impacts women’s health.
What is menopause?
It is often misunderstood and many women who go through it will often get dismissed or misdiagnosed, leaving them to cope on their own.
Among men, 15 per cent who have a female partner recently revealed in a survey they are not interested in menopause — which raises concern for the need for the topic to be be more openly discussed.
According to the NHS, menopause indicates the end of the menstrual cycle in women. The female body reaches menopause when it hasn’t had a period for 12 months, and this usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
It can sometimes happen earlier naturally, for reasons such as surgery to remove the ovaries or the uterus, cancer treatments like chemotherapy, or a genetic reason.
What are the common signs of menopause?
Symptoms can start years before your periods stop and continue afterwards.
A few common symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flashes, weight gain, and irregular periods.
Vaginal dryness and trouble sleeping are also common problems menopausal women face.
Dr Nicole Jaff, a co-author of the IMS White Paper, said: “Research studies find that a woman’s memory does change at menopause and ‘brain fog’ is common. While this can temporarily affect a woman’s quality of life, the good news is that symptoms are generally mild and resolve post-menopause.
“Women are often concerned that these memory issues are an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but these conditions are very rare in midlife. Women should be reassured that most memory problems before and during menopause will typically get better over time.”
What is perimenopause?
As stated above, symptoms can start years before periods stop and this time is known as perimenopause.
This is a transition time when hormone levels start to change and can produce symptoms of their own, as well as those associated with menopause.
According to Bupa, symptoms can include: Changes in your menstrual cycle, hot flushes and night sweats, headaches, dizziness, vaginal dryness, incontinence and bladder problems, weight gain, joint and muscle pain, and difficulty sleeping. This can bring with it an assortment of mental-health problems, including depression and a lack of interest in sex.”
One of the main differences between perimenopause and menopause is that, with the former, it is still possible to become pregnant. However, it’s much less likely, Bupa says, because you’re not ovulating as frequently. If you do not want to get pregnant, it is safer to continue using contraception.
How to ease symptoms
These symptoms can affect your daily life, including relationships and work.
There are things you can do to help with symptoms. There are also medicines that can replace the missing hormones and help relieve your symptoms.
The main treatment for menopause is Hormone-Replacement Therapy (HRT), which replaces the hormones that are at low levels.
Eating well, exercising, and looking after your mental wellbeing can also help with symptoms during menopause.
It’s important that your body is getting enough nutrients and vitamins, and has calcium-rich food like milk, yogurt, and kale to keep bones healthy.
In order to battle hot flashes and night sweats, the NHS website suggests reducing your stress levels, wearing light clothing, exercising regularly, and keeping your bedroom cool at night.
Professor Pauline Maki, a co-author of the IMS White Paper, added: “We encourage any women experiencing memory problems, or any other bothersome symptoms during menopause, to contact their healthcare practitioner for support so they can discuss treatments available to help them. Treating the symptoms of menopause can often benefit cognition as well as overall wellbeing.”
The IMS also advises women to protect their brain health by taking regular physical exercise and following a healthy diet by cutting down on starchy, fatty, sugary foods, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Stopping smoking, only drinking alcohol in moderation, getting enough sleep, and minimising stress will also reduce the effects of ‘brain fog’.
🌟Did you know it's World Menopause Day next month?
Make sure to grab a ticket to our upcoming webinar, where we will be will dive into the transformative journey of perimenopause and menopause with a specific focus on the role of nutrition & lifestyle > https://t.co/ldoCz4fhA7
— Health Foundry (@health_foundry) September 28, 2023
When is World Menopause Day and when is World Menopause Month?
The International Menopause Society has set aside October as World Menopause Month.
“Local societies can also collaborate with other organisations working in the field of adult women’s health, such as societies for osteoporosis and breast cancer, to organise joint events,” the charity said.
World Menopause Day is held every year on October 18 and is championed by the NHS.
The NHS Employers website reads: “[It is] to raise awareness, break the stigma and highlight the support options available for improving health and wellbeing.
“Menopause is not just a gender or age issue; it is an organisational issue. It can impact on colleagues both directly or indirectly. Awareness on this topic is fundamental and reducing the stigma attached to it is vital so that more people will talk openly about it so it can begin to be normalised and people can get the support they need.”