I'm thrilled to announce I have been asked to become the new Fashion Advisor for one of the UK's largest women forums: The Menopause Room. Every Friday I'll be sharing a brief style tip, thought or inspiration, and it really is an honour to have been invited to join this fantastic group.
If you don't know about The Menopause Room, it is a facebook based forum founded by Jane Atherton, and a wonderful space for ladies going through menopause to share their experiences and understand more about the natural change they are going through. And even if you are yet to go through menopause, believe you had been through it already, or have friends that are going through it, it really is worthwhile supporting this group so that we can end the stigma attached to it.
Jane is also the founder of Phytomones Ltd skincare for Menopause, and is a clinical nutritionist, skin therapist and best selling author of The Menopause Secret and Menopause Advisor.
It's no secret that I'm not going through menopause at the moment. But I want to understand more and, as Jane explains, there are still many misnomers around it, and even those that are going through it, struggle to understand what it really is. So I sat down with her to find out more...
Thank you so much for joining me today Jane! Let's start with a very basic, yet still misunderstood question: what exactly is the definition of menopause?
Menopause is confirmed when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months with having a period (or 24 month if under 50). The average age to reach menopause is 51/52. The years before hand are known as Peri-menopause, which can begin as early as 35, though most women would not connect any symptoms to menopause at this early age.
So whilst generally we assume only those over 50 go through menopause, it isn't age dependent. What is the other biggest misconception when it comes to menopause?
That it will last for a couple of years and then things will go back to normal!
Very interesting. So whilst menopause is confirmed after 12 months of no period, are there any signs she can look out for that indicate she is transitioning into that stage of her reproductive cycle?
Although hormones begin to fluctuate and decline as early as 35, most women will begin to connect the dots and realise things in their body are changing from around 42-45. One of the first symptoms will probably be irregular periods, which can become longer, shorter, heaver or lighter or disappear for several months before returning, so it is a time to expect the unexpected. Other symptoms may include hot flushes, which is pretty much the hallmark of menopause, with up to 75% of women suffering from them, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, brain fog and loss of energy and motivation. There are many more symptoms which can occur due to oestrogen withdrawal, but it is worth remembering that no two women’s menopause will be alike. Some are very lucky and sail through it without too much bother, while another woman may be unfortunate and get every symptom going.
And then when does it end?
Menopause ending is a little bit of a misnomer, because it doesn’t really end. Once you have reached menopause, your hormones will be at an all-time low and will never increase again naturally. You are no longer fertile and have now entered a new stage of your life. You will now be post menopause for the rest of your days. Symptoms do eventually calm down, but they don’t stop automatically on reaching menopause, they could go on for many more years. So do prepare yourself for this. You need to adjust your lifestyle and attitude so you can live your post-menopausal years in the best possible health, both mentally and physically.
That makes a lot of sense, and is certainly something I hadn't appreciated. I think one of the biggest problems is lack of education on the topic. Take schools for example: they educate both girls and boys on the start of a woman's reproductive cycle, but they rarely touch on the end. Why do you think this is?
Education on menopause definitely needs to be addressed. I'm not sure an 18 year old girl leaving school would fully comprehend the facts about menopause at this early age, to them it is still a lifetime away. And then once leaving full time education there is little opportunity to educate yourself about it, until it is upon you and then it’s frantic googling to find out more about it. I think it may be a good idea for all baby books to include a chapter at the end, briefly outlining future hormonal changes and what to expect from menopause.