Menopause is commonly referred to as “the change” for good reason. The changes it brings to a woman’s life are diverse. It can be liberating for some, finally ridding themselves of menstrual problems and PMS. Some wonder what all the fuss is about and breeze through the transition. Others find the physical and emotional changes menacing and at times challenging. Some are profoundly distressed as the changes dominate and take over their lives. Every woman has her own journey through menopause and managing this passage needs to be tailored to each individual woman.
Menopause symptoms affect all women. It is really surprising that we don’t talk more openly about this inevitable life change to those with whom we share our lives. It can be a confusing time. It’s still unclear as to why ovaries stop functioning. Unfortunately we cannot predict when menopause will start nor when symptoms will end. For some the symptoms can be very short lived and for others they can persist for decades.
The main focus of menopause management needs to be the impact it is having on a woman’s quality of life. It is an ideal time to address her general health and wellbeing such as blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, Pap test, breast check, blood sugar level, thyroid disease. Looking at lifestyle issues including diet, exercise, alcohol, smoking, personal relationships and life’s challenges such as caring for elderly parents, teenage children, balancing life and work commitments are fundamental to management.
Assessing how menopausal symptoms are affecting each woman is crucial to choosing treatment options. Most commonly symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, changes in sleep patterns, tiredness, bladder and vaginal changes, mood swings with depressed mood and anxious feelings, changes in body shape and decreased libido. Understandably these can affect not only how a woman feels – about herself and towards others – but also how she copes with life’s demands.
Management options range from lifestyle changes through to hormonal and non-hormonal treatments.
For some women re-evaluating their lifestyles and understanding menopause is all that they need to empower them to enjoy life. Others need individualised treatments where the benefits and risks are weighed up, taking into account personal preferences and individual issues. At some point each woman will need to decide for herself if she wants to start the menopause conversation.
By Dr. Judi Cornell