When the menopause comes, it can be all of these things and more: unsettling, confidence-shaking, depressing, and a cause of upheaval for people around you. Most of this is to do with the feeling that these huge changes are happening to your body ? changes you can do nothing about. But knowing the five most common symptoms of the menopause, and knowing how to face them means you can deal with its approach pragmatically, and face off this sheep in wolf’s clothing.
The first of these are changes in your periods, which may become shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, or generally just more irregular than before. A good way of tracking this is to make a quick note in your diary every day of your period ? just use a letter to denote what your period was like. Taking an objective view will help you feel like you and not the menopause are in control.
Men and members of family with women going through the menopause often report behaviour that seems way out of character. Fluctuations in your hormones can bring edginess, tears and sudden dips in confidence, and unlike pre-menstrual stress these moods can come and go at any time of the month. It is good to talk to people close to you and it is fair to ask for their understanding. Another method of coping is not to load too much stress on yourself during these mood swings.
Memory loss. Don’t worry, you’re not going senile ? but you may find your short term memory functions less well, or that you?ve forgotten what you came into a room for, or that you can’t remember what you were going to say. Aerobic exercise is a natural way of boosting your memory, most of all if the exercise demands complex movement, such as dancing or swimming or racket sports. It is also advisable to eat smaller amounts but more regularly, which helps keep your brain well nourished.
Urinary incontinence when you laugh, cough or exercise (don’t worry, there are products for coping with this on the tennis court too) is common, thanks to falling oestrogen levels. Try not to let yourself feel embarrassed by these moments. Doing regular pelvic floor exercises will help to strengthen and tone the urinary sphincter muscles and can be a huge help.
Hot flushes are the result of blood vessels in your skin swelling, which brings large amounts of blood to the surface. Your skin temperature may rise by up to 7 degrees, meaning you may often look as though you have just gone red in the face, but remember this is simply the thermostat in your cranium being swung temporarily off by a reduction in oestrogen levels.
So if and when you find yourself experiencing some of these symptoms, the first step is to get yourself a menopause test. These simple, cheap tests will tell you more about how to cope with the changes in your body, and often come with a range of associated useful tools such as incontinence products and pelvic floor strengthening devices. And don’t forget to be candid with your family and friends ? when it comes to dealing with a sheep in wolf’s clothing, talking helps.