October is when World Menopause Day is celebrated and although it may not seem like it, there are some good reasons to look forward and celebrate this life transition.
The thought of menopause usually calls to mind an array of unwelcome symptoms — hot flushes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, thinning hair, sleep disturbances – the list is long and can be disheartening.
But menopause can have a positive impact on your life as well; for one thing, not all physical changes caused by reduced female hormone levels are negative. For another, many of the emotional and social changes can actually be energizing.
Celebration 1: an end to periods
Menopause marks the end of the menstrual cycle, which for many women is a cause for celebration in itself. It means no more fussing with tampons or pads, no more worry about leakage, and no more menstrual cramps.
And after the perimenopausal years, when periods often become irregular and bleeding may be heavy, it puts an end to the guessing game of when your period is going to start or stop.
Celebration 2: no more PMS
In the week or two before your period, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can cause a host of physical and emotional symptoms, ranging from breast tenderness and headache pain to food cravings and irritability.
PMS is very common as at least 85 percent of all menstruating women experience one symptom or more each month. In perimenopause, PMS can temporarily worsen as oestrogen levels rise and fall.
Celebration 3: sex without pregnancy worries
Women in menopause can enjoy sex without having to think about a possible pregnancy. This makes a big difference, according to the a longitudinal study in the USA of the physical and psychosocial changes women experience in midlife, including menopause.
Some women even find that, because they no longer have to worry about the risk of pregnancy, they can actually enjoy sex more once they reach menopause.
Celebration 4: the end of hormonal headaches
Women are affected by migraines three times more often than men and about 70 percent of these women have menstrual migraines that coincide with ovulation and menstruation.
Like other migraines, these headaches cause throbbing pain on one side of the head, sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and light- or sound-sensitivity. In a normal menstrual cycle, fluctuating levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone can trigger menstrual migraines. But after menopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone fall, and often the number of hormonal headaches declines too.
Celebration 5: shrinking of fibroids
Many women approaching their 50s develop fibroids, uterine tumors that are almost always benign. Fibroids grow when oestrogen levels in the body are high, particularly in perimenopause, when oestrogen levels can swing from low to high.
Fortunately, fibroids often stop growing or shrink when women reach menopause and oestrogen levels decline.
Celebration 6: a chance to reassess
American anthropologist Margaret Mead called it “menopausal zest” — the rush of energy, both physical and psychological, that some women feel after menopause. This makes menopause a natural time for women to take stock of their lives.
Many decide to take a fresh look at their relationships, professions, the ways they’re caring for their own health, and the ways they want to expend their energy.
It is a time to look at if you are headed in the direction you want to go, both professionally and personally, and whether the way they’re spending your time is meaningful to you.
Celebration 7: increased self confidence
It’s not uncommon for postmenopausal women to report feeling empowered, partly because of the biological changes that take place in menopause and partly because of the point in life at which menopause occurs.
After 50-plus years of life experience, including the ups and downs of relationships, child-rearing, and careers, women are more likely to go after what they want with a greater sense of confidence that they can handle whatever comes their way.
Celebration 8: time to take a risk
Midlife is the time when women are inclined to take more chances. Some switch careers, perhaps turning a hobby into a business.
Others try online dating or other adventurous pursuits like mountain climbing or figure skating.
If there’s something you’ve been putting on hold, there’s no time like the present to taste what life has to offer.
Celebration 9: focus on caring for yourself
With children grown or on their way to independence and a career that’s well established, women in menopause have more time to take care of themselves.
Investigate a more healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet that’s low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, and by getting regular physical activity — anything from walking and biking to gardening and housework counts.
Don’t forget important medical checkups and don’t ignore any health symptoms that are concerning you.
Finally, it’s important to take time out and reduce stress; techniques such as meditation, relaxation techniques, or tai chi can help.
Celebration 10: you are not alone
When hot flushes have you peeling off layers of clothing or when you can’t remember what that one thing was that you came to the supermarket for, you’re likely to feel a kinship with any woman as sweaty or forgetful as yourself.
Talking — and often joking — with other women about the menopausal symptoms you’re experiencing can be very helpful by reassuring you that you’re not alone.
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51, but around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age.
Whenever it occurs, it is certainly a lot more helpful to approach it in a positive spirit and I hope some of these suggestions, and the article below, may help you to do that.