What is Menopause?

The change? Perimenopause? Post menopause? The Climacteric?

The menopause is a natural part of aging and it affects 50% of the world’s population. All  of these terms are presented to women and there is much confusion about their meaning. Menopause is a generic term used to describe all the above. Menopause the word means nothing more than your final period, nothing more! Once we have reached 50 years of age, we must have 12 consecutive months period free, before we are said to be definitely menopausal. If you are under 50 it takes 24 months.  Become aware that symptoms, up to 35 in total (the troublemakers) can start long before the last period.   According to the British Menopause Society (2017)) the majority of women experience symptoms for up to 2 years before periods stop.  However, no two women will experience the same set of symptoms, with statistics showing a percentage of women reporting perimenopausal symptoms for up to 10 years before their period stops. This is where I feel more open discussion amongst women will help with awareness. I recently attended Meg Mathews Magnificent Menopause conference in London. One of the speaker’s Dr Louise Newson (now a menopause expert and campaigner) highlighted what the lack of awareness surrounding this time in life, brings, even to female medical professionals. She presented some interesting up to date statistics.

80% of women will experience some symptoms.

25% having severe symptoms.

77% of women are unaware of, or misdiagnosed on perimenopause.

100% of women will benefit from lifestyle changes. Exercise, diet, stress management.

66% of women are prescribed anti-depressants (although up to date research contradicts use during menopause!).

1 in 2 women will develop osteoporosis (brittle bones) post menopause.

1 in 2 women will develop heart disease post menopause.

1 in 100 women under 40 become menopausal.

1 in 1,000 under 30 become menopausal.

She powerfully relayed her own personal journey when her periods became irregular in her early 40’s. Along with experiencing other symptoms, fatigue, foggy brain, irritability, considering perimenopause as a diagnosis did not enter her or her medical colleagues’ diagnostic realm, “after all menopause is associated with our 50’s”!!! A brain tumour and fibromyalgia were out ruled. Her light bulb moment came when her daughter one evening asked her why she was angry, and snappy all of the time!! She told this story to highlight the massive effect that lack of awareness in our society is having medically, economically, but primarily for women! Awareness, information, and adopting preventative strategies are key factors in allowing women navigate this natural but very complex period in their lives. Life is certainly not over at menopause, but I do feel we deserve more open discussion and education on a chapter in life, that every woman globally has to navigate.

www.daisynetwork.org.uk provide support and information for those experiencing early menopause.

Catherine O’Keefe @wellness warrior, is the Irish representative.

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