Changes happen to all of us at different times, and they’re not all physical. Zelda West-Meads talks us through the highs and lows of menopause.
So many women dread the menopause and it is hardly surprising with so much information out there about some of the side effects – we hear about hot flushes, memory loss, lack of sex drive, bone thinning, mood swings.
Indeed, one man recently rang a menopause helpline to say: ‘Can someone please help me? I think my wife is going mad.’ Many women agreed that that is just how they felt too.
And yet does it have to be an emotional rollercoaster?
The positives of this new era
While for some women it is undoubtedly very tough, others sail through the changes of the menopause with few problems.
One of the key things is to talk about it and to be aware of the changes it can bring. After all, it is in fact a very natural stage of life, a rite of passage, just like going through puberty or a significant birthday, and yet for many women, and certainly many men, it is often a taboo subject.
The thing to remember too, is that the physical and emotional trials of the menopause are temporary, you WILL come out the other side of it.
Feeling confident to voice how you feel
For those women suffering unpleasant or sometimes very severe symptoms, it is really important not to be embarrassed or think you are causing a fuss but to go and see your GP. There are various treatments available and your doctor will be able to talk through the options with you:
- HRT may be controversial but for some women it is transformative.
- Others find help in herbal treatments.
- There is no doubt that keeping fit, going for long walks and eating properly all play a part.
- If you are feeling more irritable and stressed than usual, taking up calming activities such as yoga, Pilates, meditation or mindfulness can also help.
It’s good to talk
It is vital that you talk to your partner.
If your emotions are all over the place, explain this. Don’t be embarrassed to remind your partner how their love and support makes such a difference to you.
Many women who write to me are also concerned because their sex drive suddenly seems to be much lower. If this happens, again it’s really important to talk to your partner so they understand and don’t think that there’s something wrong with the relationship.
It’s worth knowing that if you were happy with the intimate aspects of your relationship before the menopause, you are likely to feel the same way after it.
You can also see your GP as HRT, oestrogen creams or even testosterone treatment might help if you find you are having problems.
Make sure that you keep the rest of your relationship affectionate too. Start each day with a kiss and be loving and kind to each other.
Life changes – expected and unexpected
For all the difficulties of the menopause, there are advantages to this time in your life too. Some women are delighted to wave goodbye to their menstrual cycle after over 30 years!
- Newfound freedom For those with children, the menopause often coincides with a time in your life when they are flying the nest. Though this can be painful, turn it into a positive. It means that they are becoming fully-fledged young adults starting out on their own adventures, and they will still be a huge part of your life.
- Quality time rediscovered It is also time to reclaim your relationship. The teenage years can be quite demanding and so often, your relationship has taken a back seat. Now is the time to enjoy each other, do more as a couple and talk about what positive changes you might both like in your life, your work and in your relationship with each other.
- New directions… If you are single, it could be a good time to find new directions you would like to take. It's a good time to take up new interests and fulfil some of your dreams.
The menopause for the single woman
Don’t forget your friends. Remember that this is an experience that happens to every woman, and the chances are that some of your friends will be going through it at the same time.
You can laugh, cry and complain together about the menopause’s ups and downs along with the rest of the things going on in your lives and this can be a huge source of support, knowing that someone else understands what you are going through.