Saying goodbye to your cycle

Saying goodbye to your cycle

The end of your periods can happen at a wide range of ages. Patsy Westcott looks at the most common myths and realities to prepare you for what’s next.

I remember my first period more clearly than what I ate last night. I was camping in the back garden with the kids from next door when I noticed the tell-tale signs. Cue whispered discussions with my Mum and a dash to the chemist to stock up on supplies.

Ask about my last period, however, and I’d be pushed to say exactly when it was. The truth is the end of our menstrual cycle is often less of a bang than a (somewhat prolonged) whimper.

When will your periods end?

Menopause

  • Defined as a year without periods, usually happens between ages 45 and 55, with an average age of 51, although it can be earlier or later.
  • So that means we usually say goodbye to periods around age 50.
  • A few women – around one in 100 – go through early menopause: before age 40. Perimenopause
  • The years leading up to our last period – usually begins in our 40s and lasts anything from one to ten years.
  • When can you expect your last period? We’re all different so there’s no saying but the age at which your mother had hers is often a clue.

Body changes

Whenever it comes, our last period reflects the end of ovulation (the monthly release of an egg). It’s due to gradual depletion of the hormone-secreting pockets, or ‘ovarian follicles’, that contain our eggs.

Periods stop when these have dwindled to around 1000 from the staggering two million we’re born with. This leads to a decline in the female hormone, oestrogen, plus changes in other hormones and in our menstrual cycle.

What are the signs your cycle is coming to an end?

  • Worse PMT can be an early one when periods are still regular – think swollen, tender boobs, bloating, anxiety, insomnia and an increased tendency to fly off the handle.
  • Later periods tend to become irregular, shorter or longer, and often heavier. Time to stock up on super-plus sanitary protection.
  • As we approach menopause more closely the time between periods often stretches out until they come to a halt.

Hormone havoc

These years can be a time of hormone ups and downs which can bring other body changes including the dreaded hot flushes and night sweats, memory slips and foggy brain (thankfully usually temporary), vaginal dryness and sometimes loss of interest in sex, greater susceptibility to anxiety and stress and problems sleeping.

I’ll be dealing with these in future articles. Suffice to say you’d be unlucky to experience them all. But this is a good time to take a look at your health and think about what you might do to improve it.

Help to get you through

  • You can rely on self-help – stuff like eating a healthy diet and getting regular activity, to being sure to get enough sleep and relaxation.
  • There is also HRT or complementary approaches, yoga and meditation.
  • True some of us – luckily a minority – have a hard time of it during this transition period. But there is help. So if you’re affected don’t suffer in silence. See your doctor to discuss all the options.

More life ahead

Happily, for many, the end of periods brings a renewed energy and zest.

The funny thing is I vaguely thought I might miss my menstrual cycle. There was something about its rhythm that – despite PMT and the rest – was strangely reassuring.

When it came to it though I found I didn’t regret its passing one jot. In fact it’s great to be shot of those premenstrual mood swings, bloating and the other things that accompany it.

You might feel the same or need time to mourn the end of your menstrual cycle. But with a third of life ahead period free it’s time to embrace the new freedom this can bring and look forward to the future with confidence.

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Our Monthly Cycle

22/02/2017

just read Patsy,s column on periods. she did not mention any medication that women might be taking. I am a sczophrenic and the medication I have to take does interfere with our monthly cycle. I am fifty one and I have been ill for twenty three years. the last time I had a period was in October 2016. Susan Rodgers Plean Stirling

THanks

Alison 23/01/2017

re-assuring :)

Help for symptoms

25/09/2016

I seem to be quite lucky in that the only symptom I had were frequent temperature changes - up to 30 per day when I would just suddenly feel hot. Having read about them I started taking Black Cohosh tablets & my hot flushes are down to 1 or 2 a week !! Brilliant !! Started working after only a couple of days too !

Phew

OnlyMe1 25/09/2016

I had a total hysterectomy at 33 due to endometriosis and was on HRT until 2012, the change was spectacular! I went from confident and happy to panicky and miserable within a week, not to mention continually dripping with sweat Then a friend told me about the combination of evening primrose oil, starflower oil and Menapol, I never looked back. Now, 4 years later I take nothing and just have the odd hot sweat if I get flustered or upset.

the end is near

glamgran 24/09/2016

i am 55 and in the last 2 years my periods have got less erratic than before. i have fibroids and had very irregular periods from the age of 13 with bad pms and cramps. So i will be pleased when they are finally finished. apart from a few hot flushes and mood swings i am coping and hoping i wont need hrt.

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