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Menopause – A time of transition

Embrace the changes of this midlife phase.

Farewell to youth and fertility, hello to physical complaints and mood swings? All too often, conversations about menopause highlight the negative aspects about this phase of life. But it can also be seen as a time of change and new beginnings. Each woman experiences it in her own way. Some may perceive this as a challenging time marked by bothersome symptoms, while others may find the change liberating and encounter only mild symptoms. The way society views ageing women is also changing. During this midlife phase, many women develop a new sense of self and confidence in their own strengths.

Am I going through menopause?

Once considered a taboo subject, awareness for what menopause means for women has increased in recent years. Some companies are now offering jobs that are “menopause friendly” to help accommodate the women during this lifestage that comprise a significant proportion of the workforce.

Negative symptoms such as hot flushes, sleep problems and mood changes frequently dominate articles on the topic, while the information presented is often contradictory. Up to 34 different symptoms are associated with menopause and perimenopause. On the other hand, a study by the University of Dresden surveyed 1,400 women from all age groups, finding only one symptom linked specifically to the menopause transition: hot flushes. All other symptoms were experienced by women who were younger or older.

What is certain is that as you approach menopause, your estrogen levels decrease, resulting in physical changes. During this time, many women also find themselves in a time of transition in their overall life journey.

 

What’s the difference between perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause?

The term menopause is commonly used to refer to the period of transition in the years leading up to and following a woman’s final menstrual period. Sometimes this period is referred to as the menopause transition or the climacteric. Scientifically speaking, menopause refers to a point in time that follows one year after a woman’s final menstruation, and can therefore only be diagnosed in retrospect. Perimenopause is the period leading up to the menopause, during which reproductive hormone levels begin to fluctuate and the menstrual cycle becomes irregular. It officially lasts twelve months after the last period. Postmenopause describes all the years after menopause occurs.

relaxing in a hammock

When does menopause begin?

Just as the onset of the menopause transition varies, the experiences it brings differ from person to person. Typically, most women start experiencing perimenopausal symptoms between the ages of 45 and 55, although it is possible for them to occur earlier or later in life. These changes are triggered by a reduction in the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones are essential for regulating the menstrual cycle and preparing the body for a potential pregnancy.
There is no definitive rule governing the length of this phase; perimenopause can last anywhere between two and ten years. 
 

What are typical symptoms?

Many women experience this transition symptom-free within one to two years. Others deal with mild discomfort for several years. And some are severely impacted by the transition. The most common signs of menopause are hot flushes, night sweats and poor sleep. Mood swings, weight gain, hair loss and forgetfulness are also cited as common symptoms. 

face close up

Managing menopausal symptoms

There are several ways to relieve symptoms associated with the menopause. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is sometimes prescribed to increase estrogen levels in the body, which can reduce certain symptoms. However, hormone therapy is less common than in the past and usually prescribed in cases where it is deemed medically imperative by the physician. Another option is the ingestion of phytoestrogens (for example, isoflavones, lignans). These are plant substances found in foods such as soybeans, legumes, sesame and flax seeds. Non-hormonal approaches, such as lifestyle changes, including adopting a healthier diet, regular physical activity, and meditation or mindfulness exercises can also help relieve menopausal symptoms, reduce stress, and improve mental health. It is important that women consume enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis.

Black cohosh

This medicinal plant (Cimicifuga racemosa) is used to relieve premenstrual complaints as well as psychological and neurovegetative disorders during perimenopause. It can help relieve symptoms such as hot flushes, irritability, sleep disruption and feelings of unease such as anxiety and depression. Remedies containing black cohosh extract are considered an alternative to hormone replacement therapy during menopause because of their positive effects and tolerability. 

Cimicifuga racemosa plant.

Dry skin

Our skin also feels it when estrogen levels drop. This hormone plays a significant role in our skin’s metabolism, regulating the production of collagen and lipids, the natural fats found in skin. Estrogen helps keep the skin elastic and supple. Many find it necessary to adjust their daily skincare regimen to the changes they experience during menopause. The new Weleda Contouring Face Care range was developed to addresses the most common effects of menopause on the skin in this phase of life. A new active complex of blue gentian, edelweiss and centella asiatica supports the natural production of collagen by the skin. The products in this series increase skin elasticity and reduce deep wrinkles. They provide the skin with moisture, strengthen its protective barrier and stimulate cell renewal. They help to reduce hyperpigmentation, evening out your skin tone, and restore the skin’s natural radiance.

A new stage in life

Around the age of 50, many people reach a turning point. The desire for eternal youth fades, and new aspirations for greater achievements come into focus. For those with older children, this is a time to step back and let them navigate their own life. A sense of mindfulness and self-awareness gradually takes shape. Many pursue new activities to stimulate the mind and body, discover hobbies and interests or reorient themselves professionally. Experiencing sexual fulfilment without the need for contraception becomes a possibility. Hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle recede. Ageing is a natural, inevitable facet of human existence. In this respect, menopause can unleash newfound forces within us, leading to a profound sense of liberation.

Sources: https://www.aerzteblatt.de/archiv/184539/Beschwerden-in-den-Wechseljahren-Nicht-nur-eine-Frage-der-hormonellen-Situation

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