What is Menopause?
Many of us have witnessed symptoms of menopause in work colleagues, family, and friends of a certain age. Menopause happens when women stop having periods and are no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Menopause can vary between individuals, with periods becoming less frequent over months or years or stopping suddenly.
Menopause can be a challenging time for women both physically and mentally. Although the content of this article may seem worrying to many, it's important to be aware of menopausal symptoms so women can seek help from their healthcare professional. Recognizing when it may be significantly affecting your everyday activities can help you manage menopause symptoms.
When does menopause start?
This is very individual however it usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In the U.S. and the UK, the average age of menopause is 51. In 1 out of 100 cases menopause can occur before the age of 40, which is termed premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency. Premature menopause can occur at any age and in the majority of cases, there is no clear cause.
What causes menopause?
Menopause is caused by changes in the balance of the body’s sex hormones as a woman ages. It’s a result of the level of estrogen being released from the ovaries decreasing. This reduces and eventually stops ovulation - the release of eggs from the ovary.
The majority of women will experience symptoms of menopause and it's important to seek help from your healthcare professional when your everyday activities are severely impacted.
Menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness leading to discomfort during sex
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low mood or anxiety
- Reduced sex drive
- Problems with memory and concentration
It's also important to acknowledge that these menopause symptoms can arise months or years before your periods stop and last for approximately four years after your last period, although some women experience them for a longer period of time.
When to see your healthcare professional
If you feel you are experiencing menopausal symptoms that are worrying you or if you are experiencing them below the age of 45, you should seek help from your healthcare professional. Based on your symptoms they can usually confirm if you are menopausal or if you’re under 45, a blood test can be used to measure your hormone levels.
Managing and treating menopausal symptoms
Your healthcare professional may suggest lifestyle changes or offer treatments to help reduce your symptoms. These may include:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which comes in multiple forms (tablets, skin patches, gels, and implants), that relieve symptoms by replacing estrogen.
- Vaginal estrogen creams, lubricants, or moisturizers for vaginal dryness.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a talking therapy that can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
- Diet, as always, eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight can improve some menopausal symptoms.
Natural Cycles and the menopause
For anyone wanting to keep an eye on their menstrual cycles later in life, Natural Cycles can help visualize and track your cycles. It can capture whether or not you have ovulated, and how long your cycles are - useful information to take to your doctor or fertility clinic when discussing the condition.
Irregular cycles as a result of menopause do not affect the effectiveness of Natural Cycles as a birth control method. However, you may experience an increased number of red (fertile) days as the app allows for your ovulation day to shift from cycle to cycle.
A fertility app that’s tailored to you
If you’re interested in getting to know your body better, Natural Cycles is a fertility app that learns the pattern of your unique menstrual cycle. By taking your temperature every day and inputting it in the app, our algorithm can then find your ovulation, and can tell you your own personal fertile window. This science can then be used either as non-hormonal birth control or to plan a pregnancy. Becoming aware of the pattern of your own cycle is also useful for those with conditions such as PCOS or endometriosis.