What’s happening to me?
Every woman will experience menopause in her own unique way. For some women, menopause will be a gradual phase that is hardly noticed. For others it can be marked with severe symptoms that make going about your daily life close to unbearable. Menopause literally means the last monthly period of a woman’s life. However, it is confirmed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Once this occurs, women are considered to be post-menopausal but likely still experience menopausal symptoms for years following. The gradual decrease in the ovaries’ production of oestrogen during this time is simply the body’s natural evolution from the fertile child-bearing years to a whole new stage of life. For most women, menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 to 55 years and the average age is 51 years.
Out of the blue you experience waves of heat rising up from your chest into your neck and face, you may even be perspiring, this can happen when you are:
- Under pressure or feeling stressed,
- In a meeting during a presentation,
- In a crowded train,
- Sitting in traffic,
- In the supermarket,
- At the dinner table with guests,
- Lunch with the girls
Feeling hot at night
The nights can be even more challenging, you find yourself waking up feeling really hot, often bathed in perspiration, the covers come off even if it’s cold, and yes it can happen more than once a night. Your husband or partner can be buried under the bed covers to keep warm whilst you are sleeping on top of the bed or under a sheet!
Your periods have become irregular, lighter or heavier, more frequent or less frequent, you can feel irritable for no reason, you can not explain your weight gain, and a good nights sleep is something you need but don’t seem to get anymore.
The onset of menopause
If you are approximately 45 years of age or older, you are most likely experiencing the onset of menopause. The average age for the onset of menopause is 47.5 years of age, the average age of menopause is 51 years of age, with menopausal symptoms commonly lasting for 4-5 years.
It is important to remember menopause is not a disease it is a process we go through, we can all experience menopause slightly differently, therefore although there are common symptoms, which symptoms you experience, and the severity and or frequency of the symptoms can and does vary between women.
Stages of a women’s hormone cycle
12.8 yrs - late 30's
Estrogen levels peaking with pregnancy
Mid 40's - early 50's
- Fertility is declining
- Early transition when periods are more than 7 days different to the normal cycle (21-35 days)
- Late stage – miss 2 or more cycles or no period for 60 days or more
Early 50's - 60
- No period for 12 months or more
- Ovaries no longer active.
- Decline in bone density
- Decline in muscle tone
- No period for 5 years or more
- Reduced bone & muscle mass, memory and concentration declining, heart & cardiovascular health can be impacted
Your body goes through a series of changes as you enter the transition phase right through to the post menopause stage, there is no hard and fast rule as to when it will happen or what symptoms you will or won’t get or how frequent or severe they might be, or how long it will last as it seems to vary from women to women. Just when you think phew I might be through this, it can come back again!
Often called a women’s right of passage or ‘the change’ it’s important to realise this is not a disease it’s a natural process we are programmed to go through, it’s how you decide to manage it that makes all the difference.
Read on to understand more about menopause and find out what you can do to help yourself!
If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.