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What is Menopause? Why it happens and what to expect?

Menopause can either be something middle-aged women look forward to, or dread. It occurs when a woman has not experienced a menstrual period for 12 months. Menopause occurs when eggs aren’t released from the ovaries.
For many women, menopause occurs between the ages of 44 and 55. The average age a woman in Australia experiences menopause is between 51-52 years of age. Some women can experience menopause as early as 40 or as late as 60.
If you experience menopause symptoms before 40 years of age it is considered to be abnormal. Menopause can occur earlier if you’ve had cancer treatment. If your periods stop before you are 45 years of age, you need to see your GP.
Perimenopause can last from 1 to 10 years before menopause occurs. During this time, you may start to experience some menopause symptoms. Your periods may also become irregular or heavier. Our doctors individually tailor treatment programs. We have decades of medical experience treating and supporting women during their menopause journey.

What are the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause?

Every woman’s experience of menopause is unique. The emotional, mental and physical symptoms generally identified with menopause vary a lot. According to Jean Hailes for Womens Health:

  •  “20% of women have no symptoms,
  •  60% experience mild to moderate symptoms and
  •  20% have symptoms so severe that they significantly interfere with daily life.”

The common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:

  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Mood swings (including anxiety, depression, difficulty with sleeping or concentration)
  • Vaginal changes (including dryness and irritation)
  • Crawling or itchy skin
  • Sore breasts
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of libido and reduced sex drive

These symptoms are a result of:

  • Changes in hormones
  • Reduced oestrogen and progesterone levels resulting in the majority of symptoms
  • Reduced testosterone levels. Current research indicates that this may be why some women experience bone density and muscle mass loss and a reduced libido.

How are perimenopause and menopause diagnosed?

Perimenopause and menopause are not easy to diagnose with blood tests. During perimenopause, your oestrogen and progesterone levels vary from day-to-day. Blood tests don’t help diagnose perimenopause. If you have not had a period for 12 months, and are in your late 40’s or early 50’s you are menopausal

How to maintain your health and weight during and after menopause

During perimenopause and menopause, it is important for women to look after their health. The effects of menopause can lead to:

  •  a risk of heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • a risk of stroke
  • osteoporosis

Menopause can be a positive time for women to start putting their own lives and health first. The physical, emotional and mental symptoms of menopause can decrease with:

  • good quality sleep
  • daily physical exercise (30-45 minutes) and weight training
  • good mental health
  • quitting smoking
  • eating a well-balanced diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and cereals
  • reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption

What to do if you feel you need support with menopause?

There is no one way to go through the menopause. Each woman’s experience is unique. Changes during menopause can cause confusion and anxiety. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can be challenging. Access Health & Community has experienced doctors who can help enhance your wellbeing and health.

It is important to see your doctor:

  • If you experience menopause symptoms before the age 45.
  • If your symptoms are atypical
  • Menopause and perimenopause symptoms are interfering with your daily life.

Menopause and perimenopause treatment can include Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT). Once known as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) this is a safe and effective treatment. The contraceptive pill and an intrauterine device (Mirena) are other treatment options.

During menopause, it is still important to have regular Cervical Screening Tests. You will need to continue this until your early 70’s. It is also important to have regular breast screening every 2 years. Visit your nearest menopause clinic for more information.
Book a doctors appointment today. Online appointments are available at Hawthorn and Richmond.

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