Our private GPs, Dr Lucy and Dr Hala have a special interest in the menopause and will be writing regular updates on here on our blog. In this post, we’ll cover what the menopause and peri-menopause are and what we may experience in these stages.
Peri-Menopause and The Menopause
A natural menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs and oestrogen. The time leading up to your last period is called the peri-menopause and symptoms are often experienced as both progesterone and oestrogen levels decrease.
Symptoms can start anytime in your 40s and can be difficult to diagnose. The perimenopause can be a tough time for a lot of women and is often misdiagnosed as depression, low mood or other functional disorders. As private GPs, we always take into consideration all possible diagnoses, taking the time to truly understand any underlying causes.
The average age for the menopause in the UK is 51. If the menopause occurs before the age of 45, it is called early, and if it occurs before the age of 40 it is termed premature ovarian insufficiency. Certain things can cause an early menopause such as surgery to remove the ovaries, radiotherapy to the pelvic region, some chemo drugs, and hereditary conditions, but often no cause is found.
- ⅓ of women will go through the menopause without experiencing symptoms
- ⅓ of women will experience debilitating symptoms of the menopause
- ⅓ of women will suffer with moderate or acceptable symptoms
What are the Symptoms of the Menopause?
As ovulation becomes more unpredictable, the length of time between periods may be longer or shorter, your flow may be light to heavy, and you may skip some periods.
Hot flushes and sleep problems
Hot flushes are common during peri-menopause. The intensity, length and frequency vary. Sleep problems are often due to hot flushes or night sweats, but sometimes sleep becomes unpredictable even without them.
Mood swings, irritability or increased risk of depression may happen during perimenopause. This could be a result of interrupted sleep which happens as a result of the hot flushes.
Vaginal and bladder problems
As oestrogen levels drop, the vaginal tissue loses its lubrication and becomes weakened. This can make intercourse painful and uncomfortable. It can also cause repeated urine infections
Ovulation lessens around the time of the menopause however it can still happen sporadically. It is advisable to carry on using contraception and discuss with your doctor how long to continue it for.
Decreased bone mass and heightened risk of osteoporosis
As oestrogen levels drop, more bone is lost than is made. Women who go through the menopause early are at high risk of osteoporosis.
Changing cholesterol levels
As oestrogen levels drop the LDL (bad cholesterol) starts to rise and the HDL (good cholesterol) starts to drop.
Skin and hair changes
Thinning of the hair and dry skin are commonly seen during the menopause.
It is important to speak to your doctor or private GP if you are suffering from any of the symptoms or think you are going through the menopause. It is especially important if you are worried you are going through a pre-mature menopause as hormones serve to have protective functions and you will likely need treatment.
Our private GPs have a special interest in the menopause and are members of the British Menopause Society. They have just completed the annual British Menopause Society update and will be bringing you more and more information over the coming weeks!
Please do get in touch with us on 0333 050 7338 if you’d like to find out more about becoming a Linbury Doctors member.