Menopause is the cessation of menstrual cycles for 12 months. The symptoms women experience can range from mainly physical – for example: hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, palpitations, joint pains, bloating, dryness, urinary symptoms including urgency and recurrent cystitis or urinary tract infection – to more psychological, such as anxiety, tearfulness, low self-confidence, irritability as well as sexual symptoms like low libido and reduced arousal. Women can have only one or two of these symptoms or almost all of them. The intensity and how much they affect a woman’s quality of life can also vary greatly.
Perimenopause is the time around the menopause. The years leading to menopause can be very tricky as women still experience menstrual cycles, but they also begin to experience a variety of the symptoms mentioned above. Due to the fact that the symptoms can come and go and have a varying intensity, this can be confusing and it is often missed that these symptoms relate to fluctuating or diminishing hormones.
Estrogen and progesterone hormone receptors are found on almost every organ in our body. Therefore, the effect of the hormonal deficiencies and imbalances can be catastrophic. Women are faced with a multitude of symptoms: lack of sleep, frequent flushes, and urinary symptoms, as well as psychological symptoms which are difficult to deal with when you suddenly feel your memory and cognition is also deteriorating. Women often report difficulty with word finding, remembering names and dates and this can have a huge impact on their performance at work.
Generally, women become menopausal at an age when they are at the peak of their careers and the sudden and permanent fall in their hormone levels can have detrimental effects on their work. Peri/menopause often happens at a time in a woman’s life when she has work and family pressures, so symptoms can often be overlooked and confused with daily life stresses.
Sadly, many women suffer in silence and do not seek help for their menopausal symptoms. This is backed up by our own research – the Annual Menopause Report 2021 – which showed that 78% of those questioned do not take HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or other treatments for symptoms. A further 58% said they do not receive any help for the menopause, which is quite alarming.
There is help available and it is always best to seek advice and guidance from a trained healthcare professional who is experienced in diagnosing and treating the menopause. There are now many options available to women including non-hormonal treatments, as well as hormones which have chemical structures identical to those women produce naturally. These hormones are known as bioidentical or body identical.
Dr Laila Kaikavoosi is a GP and menopause specialist and founder of the UK’s first online menopause clinic, the Online Menopause Centre. She is a leading expert in the field of menopause and has helped thousands of women to reach their optimal health and hormonal balance by offering them the most up-to-date, unbiased and individualised treatment options.