Menopause – What’s Happening Inside Me?
Menopause is essentially the point in a woman’s life where menstruation stops. The transition often happens between the ages of 44 and 54 and begins with perimenopause (which can start in the 30s). Menopause affects every woman differently and there is still far too little research into how this manifests and what can be done to help manage it. It’s important to bear in mind that much of the traditional ‘advice’ around menopause is limited and poorly informed. Symptoms could be anything, from night sweats and hot flushes to problems with the liver. Some women may find this a tough time and for others, it’s one of the best moments in their life.
Why is menopause different for everyone?
The way women experience menopause will depend on the way the body produces oestrogen and progesterone, which will be different for everyone. These are the hormones that are generated in the ovaries. When the menopause transition begins, oestrogen levels start to drop in the body and can create a very wide range of symptoms. It will also impact how the body functions, which means that there can be a big transition in terms of getting used to a new way of living. For example, during the menopause transition, a woman’s body might start to use energy differently and fat cells can change, which can cause fluctuations in weight.
What happens during the menopause transition?
● Periods change. A woman’s monthly period might get shorter or longer but the cycle in general will start to shift until the bleeding stops completely.
● Incontinence. This can be the result of the need to pee more often. This can also be very common in mid-life due to bladder infections.
● Hot flushes. This is the experience of redness on the face and neck and a sudden feeling of heat in the upper body. Hot flushes can be rare or frequent and may last anywhere between 30 seconds and 10 minutes.
● Sleep disruption. Many women start to experience sleep disruption around this time of life, which can mean waking up too early, low quality of sleep or being unable to get to sleep.
● Emotions and mental health. The hormonal changes taking place in the body can have an impact on how women feel at this time of life. It’s vital to learn to set boundaries and start saying ‘No’ to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Some women find that any trauma or mental health difficulties experienced earlier in life can rise up again – this can be challenging but is also an opportunity to process these experiences and move on.
Menopause and the liver
When levels of oestrogen start to decline this can affect the liver as it may trigger mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, declining immune responses to injury, and disarray in the balance between antioxidant formation and oxidative stress. As a result, there is an increased risk when it comes to liver disease, something that should be on every woman’s radar.
We still know so little about menopause due to the lack of research and dedicated study on the subject – but that is changing. For any woman going through the transition, it’s important to remember that your experience will be unique and there are lots of sources of help today.