Eating well, exercising and looking after your mental well being can help with symptoms during peri-menopause and menopause
Menopause happens to most women. Menopause is when you have your final period. Your periods stop because your ovaries don’t release eggs anymore.
The average age of menopause is 51 years, but it’s normal to have menopause anywhere between 45 and 55 years although some women have it at an earlier or later age. Menopause can happen naturally, at the expected age or early. Your periods can also stop unexpectedly due to premature ovarian insufficiency, surgery or cancer treatment.
Peri-menopause is the time leading up to menopause, and post-menopause is the time after your final period.
Peri-menopause is the stage before menopause, when your ovaries are running out of eggs. During this time, you might start experiencing symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.
Peri-menopause usually happens sometime in your 40s. On average, it lasts four to six years, but it can last from one to 10 years.
During this time, your ovaries begin to run out of eggs. This causes hormone levels, particularly Oestrogen, to fluctuate, causing different symptoms.
Changing hormones can also affect your menstrual cycle. For example, your periods may be irregular, shorter (or longer), lighter (or heavier), or they may not come for a few months.
Some months you may ovulate and other months you may not. You may even ovulate twice in a cycle.
Management and treatment of menopausal symptoms vary depending on your stage of life, relationships and general health and well being. You can try different things to relieve your symptoms. For example, healthy living, complementary therapies, menopausal hormone therapy ( MHT or HRT ) and some prescription medications.
How do you know if you’ve reached menopause?
It can be hard to know if you’ve reached menopause, because your periods can be irregular during this time. It’s likely you’ve reached menopause if you haven’t had a period for 12 months.
From about 35–40 years of age, you have fewer eggs left in your ovaries and don’t ovulate (release an egg from your ovary) as often. Menopause means your ovulation and periods stop.
Hormones and menopause
Hormones are chemicals made in your body that relay messages through your bloodstream. For example, your hormones tell your body to eat and sleep.
The three main hormones that change as you approach menopause are:
The change in hormone levels can lead to different menopausal symptoms.
Oestrogen is produced from the cells around the eggs in your ovaries. It helps to maintain parts of your body. For example, your endometrium (uterus lining), cervix (where your uterus joins your vagina), breast ducts and bones.
Your Oestrogen production increases and decreases in the lead-up to menopause. As you approach your final period, your number of eggs decreases and oestrogen levels drop by up to 90%.
Progesterone is responsible for things like mucus levels in your cervix, acidity levels in your vagina and milk cells in your breasts. It can also make you moody.
Progesterone is produced when an egg is released. It prepares your uterus for a fertilised egg and pregnancy. As you approach your final period, your progesterone levels decrease.
Testosterone is produced by your ovaries and other parts of your body.
You might think testosterone is a male hormone but it also plays an important role in women’s sexual desire, emotional well being and bone and muscle strength.
Testosterone decreases gradually with age. In some women, levels fall by half between the ages of 20 and 40 years.
It’s important to look after your health after menopause, as changes due to ageing and lower levels of Oestrogen can increase your risk of developing certain health conditions.
Lifestyle changes to help menopause and peri-menopause
Eating well, exercising and looking after your mental well being can help with symptoms during peri-menopause and menopause.
Get plenty of rest, including keeping to regular sleep routines
Eat a healthy diet
Have calcium-rich food like milk, yoghurt and kale to keep bones healthy
Exercise regularly, try including weight-bearing activities where your feet and legs support your weight like walking, running or dancing
Do relaxing things like yoga, tai chi, meditation or massage therapy
Talk to other people going through the same thing, like family and friends
Talk to a doctor to include herbal supplements or complementary medicines
Do not exceed the daily recommended alcohol intake
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