Not many people realise that there’s approximately 34 different symptoms of the menopause, of which every woman will have an entirely unique experience.
We’ve all heard of hot flushes and night sweats, but many women are blissfully unaware of the many other symptoms associated with menopause and how early they can strike.
So many women come to see me in their mid-40s with symptoms of anxiety, brain fog and loss of libido, not even thinking about menopause. But studies are starting to emerge which suggest that symptoms around mood, mental health and brain function could be affecting more women than vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes, night sweats and heart palpitations).
The ugly truth – why women are suffering in silence
Around 8 out of 10 women experience some menopausal symptoms and around 25% of women have very severe symptoms. More than half of women have menopausal symptoms for more than seven years. It astounds me that in this day and age many women are still unaware of how menopause can affect their body and will live with debilitating symptoms for, in some cases, many years before finally seeking help.
I posted about this topic on my Instagram recently and was saddened to read some of the comments from women sharing their experience of visiting their GP to discuss their symptoms – “women suffering from menopausal symptoms are not treated in the same way as a person who is ill as menopause isn’t an illness and therefore it isn’t taken seriously” “We are made to feel that we must suffer in silence” “You’re not taken seriously as nobody dies from menopause” “GPs need more training to understand the impact that menopause symptoms can have on your quality of life.”
Over the years, I have seen many women who feel unable to cope with the symptoms they are experiencing who cannot function in the life they are used to living and that just shouldn’t be acceptable.
Understanding the symptoms
The first step to effectively managing your symptoms is to first recognise that they’re an issue and then take action to address them effectively. And that means understanding all of the symptoms, even the less obvious ones.
It’s so important that if you’re suffering, if something is worrying you or causing you difficulty, that you make an appointment to see your doctor. Or, if they’re unable to help, a menopause expert. Not everything that you experience whilst going through menopause can simply be put down to another symptom of ageing.
Low moods and anxiety
When you enter the perimenopausal years, your ovaries function less efficiently than before leading to imbalances in many of your hormones including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This affects your brain chemistry and, as a result, you might feel more irritable angry, depressed, and emotional than before. This explains why you may feel fine one minute, and then emotional the next. Or why you’re struggling to concentrate or complete tasks as quickly as you once did.
Loss of libido
Loss of libido is a common symptom yet it’s one that many women fail to recognise as a sign that they have entered perimenopause. Reduced or absent libido occurs when your hormone levels fall. This can also be related to low testosterone levels in your body. Rediscovering your libido can often be quite difficult, but by restoring hormone levels to a healthy balance, it is often possible.
Many women find that their brain doesn’t feel as engaged as it once used to be which can affect your ability to work and function effectively. You may also find it harder to concentrate or multi-task and this can often be very frustrating.
You may find that joint and muscle pain becomes an issue particularly in the knees. This is because lower oestrogen levels can sometimes lead to joint and muscle pain as oestrogen can have an anti-inflammatory effect and also helps to make cartilage.
Feelings of tiredness and fatigue may be due to having disrupted sleep as a result of night sweats. But many women do generally find that their sleep isn’t as settled when they’re perimenopausal. Even if you’re still sleeping just as well as you always have done, you may still experience increased feelings of tiredness during the day.
Reclaiming control of your health
If you’re in your early-to-mid 40s and you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or any of the more commonly known symptoms of menopause, the chances are that you are perimenopausal.
Perimenopause is a time where you’re still having periods, but they may be changing in frequency and nature, and you may start to experience menopausal symptoms. During perimenopause your body is beginning to prepare for menopause and changes are starting to happen.
You’re not losing your mind. Your hormones are changing and a visit to your doctor or a menopause expert can help you to understand what is happening within your body and the best way to take back control and to feel like yourself once again.
It’s a myth that menopausal symptoms need to be experienced in silence. There are many treatment options out there. No woman has to suffer alone. Your general health and your quality of life will be far improved once you have taken action.