The menopause is a natural process that every woman goes through in her late forties or early fifties, or sometimes earlier. But just because it happens to every woman it doesn’t mean it’s any easier to deal with, or that women even fully understand what’s happening to their bodies.
New research conducted by the natural menopause supplement Femal found almost 70% of women don’t know what to expect when it comes to the menopause, with a further 57% feeling unprepared when it hits. It can cause symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, difficulty sleeping, low mood or anxiety, reduced sex drive, and problems with memory and concentration.
To mark World Menopause Day (October 18), which is organised by the International Menopause Society, specialist menopause nurse Kathy Abernethy has teamed up with Femal to share her tips on how to survive, and thrive, during the menopause.
Consider kicking unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking too much and eating unhealthy foods, and get your body moving on a regular basis – exercise releases endorphins and helps build strength.
2. Talk about it
Ask women around you about their experiences and how they managed symptoms, and talk to those close to you, like your partner, friends, children or even colleagues. Menopause doesn’t need to be a taboo and the more we can normalise the conversation together the easier the experience is for everyone.
3. Know your options
Choosing a treatment to support you through the menopause is a personal decision – what suits one woman might not suit another because everyone’s experience is different. Not all women need medical treatment and some prefer to take a natural or hormone-free approach. Women with more severe symptoms may wish to speak to their doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
4. Take time for yourself
Check in with how you’re feeling and prioritise self-care. Try relaxation and meditation techniques, yoga, reading or simple pleasures like going for a walk or painting your nails. Explore ways to express yourself – whether that’s a new hobby or rekindling an old one, make sure you maximise the benefits of this life stage.
5. Tackle a hot flush
Wear natural fibres and loose layers that can easily be removed, but avoid high necks and close-fitting clothes. If you wear a uniform at work and it becomes uncomfortable, speak to your HR department to see if they can provide something more comfortable. Give yourself plenty of time when travelling to places or between locations to avoid rushing and stress, and keep a cooling spray handy for those moments when the feeling of intense heat takes over.
6. Don’t give up on intimacy
During the menopause, sex can sometimes feel painful especially if you’re experiencing vaginal dryness. There are lots of products available to help with this and if you’re worried, speak to your doctor or nurse. Talk to your partner and try to be as honest as possible – by having an open conversation you can find ways to improve your sex life together. A natural lubricant may help you feel more comfortable and relaxed, and you can also try a natural vaginal moisturiser two to three times a week to improve vaginal pH balance.
7. Prioritise food that makes you feel good
Drink plenty of water and focus on a balanced diet – plenty of vegetables, good protein and healthy fats will help you to have the energy you need. Avoid or reduce food and drinks that could trigger symptoms like hot flushes and insomnia such as caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol and large quantities of sugar and salt.