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The bare essentials of menopause!
Find out about the 3 main stages of menopause - yep there's more than 1...
 
Then you can understand
which
 applies to you.
 
And learn about the myriad of
symptoms so you can at very least, be forearmed as to what you may experience.

stages & symptoms

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the essentials

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It's important to note, there is no such thing as TOO YOUNG! Some women reach the menopause in their 30s or 40s or even younger. This is officially called 'early menopause' if you are under 45 and if you are younger than 40, it is 'premature menopause'.

For most women,, menopause is a natural process however, certain existing conditions, medical treatments and diseases can cause early or premature menopause for example chemotherapy, hysterectomy, autoimmune disease and POI (Primary Ovarian Insufficiency).

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perimenopause

Many women don’t know (as I didn’t) that there is even such a thing as perimenopause!

Simply put, perimenopause means 'around the time of menopause' and refers to the time during which your body makes the transition to menopause.

 

Perimenopause usually lasts a number of years (the average is four, but can last up to 10).

 

Typically, it will begin in your 40s but there is no exact age. It could be earlier or later than this.

 

This is when you'll start to notice some or all of the associated symptoms. It’s a bit like puberty in reverse!

In the first few years of perimenopause, your hormone levels fluctuate - namely oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

 

One of the most obvious symptoms of perimenopause is irregular periods. They may become heavier or lighter, more or less frequent and often more painful.

 

Often, the other symptoms are put down to stress, illness or other life events and perimenopause is often misdiagnosed.

During the latter years of perimenopause, your oestrogen production slows down even more quickly. You may now be experiencing other symptoms such as night sweats, flushes (hot and cold), fatigue and irritability.

 

Perimenopause only ends once your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs.

 

Be very mindful that even in perimenopause, there is still a chance of pregnancy no matter how irregular your periods are.

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menopause

Menopause is the period in a woman's life (typically between the ages of 45 and 55) when menstruation ceases - meno refers to your menstrual cycle and pause, well that speaks for itself!

To be classed as 'in menopause', it must be at least 12 months after your last period. Yep you have to be a full year period free. I've twice gotten to 11 months and then boom - several periods back to back!

What a lot of women don't know, is that 'menopause' is actually JUST ONE DAY! It is literally that one day exactly 12 months since your last period.

Immediately after menopause, you move into postmenopause...​

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postmenopause

Postmenopause begins the very next day after your  'menopause'.

 

By now you should be experiencing far less symptoms, if any.

 

And despite the terminology, you are never actually through, over or out of menopause - you'll be in the postmenopausal stage for the rest of your life (just hopefully symptom free). 

As things have usually settled down a lot by now, some women feel a renewal of energy especially as they might also be experiencing the 'empty nest' stage of their lives.

 

However, some women will continue to have some symptoms as hormone levels still continue to drop.

There are a number of health conditions associated with reduced hormone levels so make sure you are having regular check ups with your healthcare professional.

It's also important to consider lifestyle choices,  supplements and other treatments including HRT as these can all have a huge impact on your menopause journey.

let's talk symptoms

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track, track, track!

It's really important to keep track of your symptoms... How long are they lasting, how severe are they? Are you seeing new symptoms every week?

This can help you understand whereabout on your menopause journey you are.

Not only that, but it can give you 'evidence' to take to your GP if you are struggling to get the treatment you need.

 

Here is my symptom tracker - you can download the full pdf version for free just by entering your details below.

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And now, welcome to the minefield!

I say that because this is where things can get a little confusing and can also be why menopause often gets misdiagnosed.

Here you will find details of the most common symptoms and some of the less known ones. There are 'officially' 34 recognised symptoms but as you will see from the lists - there are in fact many more!

What you will also see is that so many of them could be attributed to other illnesses and conditions, so if you are deemed to be 'too young' it may be that you are given inadequate advice and care.

There are some additional resources at the bottom of this page which you can also use to show to your healthcare professional if needed.

The 'full' list

I use 'full' very loosely as oestrogen actually affects every cell in your body, therefore the symptom list is in fact limitless. I've listed the most common and some you may not have considered before...

mental and emotional

These often go overlooked and can be more difficult to explain or talk about, but this is the area I have most personal experience in and I'm here for you...

Decreased confidence

Rage

Poor concentration

Reduced focus

Low libido

Emotional sensitivity

Lower alcohol tolerance

Increased hangovers!

Mood swings 

Stress

Unexplained anxiety 

Memory lapses 

Brain fog 

Irritability 

Depression 

Panic attacks

Lack of motivation

physical

This is by far the biggest group of symptoms and this list is not exhaustive...

 

Irregular periods 

Vaginal dryness

Fatigue 

Dizzy spells 

Disrupted sleep/ insomnia 

Osteoporosis

Digestive problems

Headaches 

Breast Soreness 

Joint pain 

Muscle tension

Weight gain 

Bloating

Hair loss/ thinning

Incontinence

Palpitations

Dry/ itchy skin

Burning/ tingling skin

Burning mouth

Gum disease

Brittle nails

Body odour 

Excess facial hair

Hot flushes 

Night sweats

Allergies

Electric shocks

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I'd like to share a little more of my story, you may be able to relate to some of it and feel a little less alone...

 

So where did it all start for me? 

 

It's 2014. I'd just lost my job - due to having excessive time off for mental health related issues. This in itself was damaging enough as I have always been successful in my career, focused, dedicated and results driven. 

 

I had been used to high level positions with high profile businesses, good salary and massive potential. But I was now struggling to keep a job of the most basic nature. I'd been forced into a different, less demanding career due to relocating with my hubby. 

 

Focus, organisational skills and short term memory had pretty much escaped me. Not very helpful in a corporate environment at any level, but at the time I'd written it off to the work challenge not being great enough to incentivise me. Boredom breeds inactivity. 

 

I also had many physical symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleepless nights, increased and changed body odour, achy joints and have had massive weight gain. 

In fact, I have had almost every single symptom there is, but thankfully most of them have now gone or at least subsided somewhat.

I still struggle with brain fog, fatigue and sweats but for the most part - my menopause is now much more manageable and I hope to help you do the same.

Far and away, the worst symptoms for me have been the 'hidden symptoms' - you know, the mental and emotional ones... I have battled severe depression, extremely low confidence, paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks and massive irritability!

I was pretty much a nightmare!

 

Plus, I had no idea what was going on. My GP put it down to clinical depression and I was given antidepressants.

Now I have absolutely no issues taking them, but I don't think they really helped much because they were treating the wrong hormone imbalance.

 

And this is when I hit my all time low - so low I actually couldn't see a way back up, nor did I want to!

​You can hear all of my story in my upcoming book but for now, here's a wee excerpt...

My menopause symptoms had worsened, in particular the irritability and depression. To such a point that on Christmas Eve, I'd had enough of life. I actually didn't want to wake up on Christmas Day… or any day after. 

 

It seemed to creep up on me in the blink of an eye. One minute I was prepping for the Christmas meal and watching cheesy movies, the next it felt like a switch had been turned off. 

 

I was angry about everything, yet nothing. I had a huge argument with Mum about a very minor situation. I felt so useless and unnecessary, everything felt pointless. 

 

Given how hard I'd been working to grow my business and get consistent with mindset, this came as an immense shock. 

 

So here I was, living with my Mum, broke financially and broken emotionally. THIS was most definitely my lowest point ever. 

Chances are, if you have or have had any of those hidden symptoms - you've written them off to stress, lifestyle or illness. Most people who think about menopausal symptoms often just think of those you can see.

I think this is in part due to the stigma of any mental or emotional condition - we simply don't want to talk about it!

But part of my mission is to help change that. It's ok to not be ok sometimes and even more ok to ask for help if you need it!

It took far too long for me to realise my mental health was in fact being affected by perimenopause and as such, took far too long for me to get the correct help.

This is exactly why I'm so passionate about raising awareness and providing support - so you don't need to struggle like I did.

and for more info - check out this free booklet by dr. louise newson

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The Balance Symptoms Checklist

A great starting point via the Balance website

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