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Menopause

Menopause

A women’s ‘change of life’ occurs when menstruation ends. This means her ovaries stop producing eggs, so she can no-longer have children.

In the UK women on average reach their menopause at 52 but it can happen earlier or later. Generally the menopause doesn’t mean an immediate end to periods, but rather it’s more gradual with periods becoming further apart before they cease entirely.

Symptoms:

  • Irregular pattern of your period.
  • Hot flushes & night sweats.
  • Loss of libido.
  • Tiredness.
  • Vaginal dryness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Palpitations.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Headaches.
  • Mood changes.
  • Discomfort during sex.
  • Sometimes anxiety or depression.

What causes the menopause?

As a woman gets older levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen begin to decrease causing the ovaries to stop producing an egg each month (ovulation). The menopause is a natural part of ageing.

What causes the menopause?

Given that the menopause is completely natural, it is more a case of the change being managed rather than treated. Where menopausal symptoms are mild this can be done without seeking further help. However, if symptoms are severe treatments are available. Options include: hormone replacement therapy (HRT), tibolon, and clonidine.

HRT is available on prescription. It comes as a gel, cream, tablet, implant or patch and works by replacing oestrogen thereby reducing common menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and urinary tract infections such as cystitis. In the long-term it can also lessen the risk of osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones ). HRT can be: oestrogen-only HRT, combined HRT (which includes oestrogen and progestogen) for women who are starting to experience menopausal symptoms but who still get periods, and continuous HRT for post-menopausal women.

Tibolone is similar to HRT but uses a synthetic hormone that acts in the same way as HRT.

Clonidine is sometimes prescribed to reduce hot flushes and night sweats. Some antidepressants have also been found to be effective in treating hot flushes.

A vaginal lubricant can be prescribed to combat vaginal dryness and make sex more pleasurable.

Alternative remedies & self-help:

  • Regular exercise and relaxation methods (such as yoga) may be helpful in reducing hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia. It’s also worth avoiding triggers such as caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol and cigarettes.
  • Many women take supplements to help menopausal symptoms. The jury is still out as to which are effective, but popular choices for hot flushes include: sage and flaxseed oil; ginseng for improved sleep, ginkgo biloba for circulation and calcium and vitamin D to improve bone health.
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