Menopause can be confusing, frustrating, worrisome and uncertain, so it's little wonder that the internet is full of page after page of information about the experience.
However, the problem with this is that sometimes it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Well, what about with the five of the most frequently Googled questions about menopause?
These will, hopefully, help you make a start on wading through the vast amounts of data and stats out there and prove you aren't alone in your quest for answers.
If you are worried or have questions about any of the below then do consult your GP.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
According to the NHS website, the hormone changes that happen around menopause affect every woman differently.
Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around 4 years after your last period, although some women experience them for much longer.
Here are some of the symptoms you may experience:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Trouble sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Changes in sex drive
- Mood changes
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Weight gain
- Joint aches and pain
What can be done about vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness can not only cause pain and discomfort during sex but also cause you to itch or need to pee more often. However, there are things you can do to help combat dryness.
According to the NHS website, you should:
- use water-based lubricants before sex – put these in and around your vagina or on your partner's penis
- use vaginal moisturisers for vaginal dryness – you can put these inside your vagina to keep it moist
- use un-perfumed soaps and washes around your vagina
- try to enjoy more foreplay so you feel more aroused during sex
Try to avoid perfumed soaps or washes in and around your vagina and do not put creams or lotions like petroleum jelly inside your vagina.
How can I prevent hot flashes?
It's not possible to completely control whether you are prone to hot flashes or not and every woman will experience them at different frequencies and intensities. However, you can help control hot flashes by avoiding trigger foods, such as spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine.
Make sure to keep a fan in your home or workplace, and/or a mini one in your bag for when you're caught out and about, and try taking slow, deep breaths when you feel a hot flash starting.
Can I stop using birth control when I begin menopause?
Diane Fellars at Health Partners, recommends that women use some form of birth control for the first two years after having their last period, if they do not wish to get pregnant. But the patch, pill or coil are not suggested as women go into their mid to late 40s. This is due to the high levels of estrogen in these forms of birth control and risk of blood clots.
After menopause, you should continue to practice safe sex techniques to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
I'm having trouble sleeping and feel tired all the time. Is this to do with menopause?
The NHS website explains that some women report sleep disturbances (insomnia) around the time of menopause, and healthcare professionals can sometimes attribute sleep disturbances to menopause symptoms.
However, there are many reasons for sleep disturbances besides menopausal night sweats (simply, hot flashes at night). Your sleep disturbances may be caused by factors that affect many women beginning at midlife, such as sleep-disordered breathing (known as sleep apnea), restless legs syndrome, stress, anxiety, depression, painful chronic illnesses, and even some medications.
Any treatment should first focus on improving your sleep routine—use regular hours to sleep each night, avoid getting too warm while sleeping, avoid stimulants such as caffeine and dark chocolate.
If you are experiencing any of the issues discussed above or are concerned about any of the symptoms you are experiencing, consult your local GP. You can find further resources and information via the NHS website or menopausesupport.co.uk.
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