While some women seem to sail through menopause, most of us experience menopause symptoms that can be quite severe and have a significant impact on everyday life.
Hot flushes and night sweats are the most common, while others complain about reduced libido, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, low mood or anxiety as well as problems with concentration.
Here are the three most awkward menopause symptoms no one warns you about…
I’m having serious mood swings
Although mood swings are often one of the first menopause symptoms, no one really tells you how bad it can get. One minute you’re sobbing through an entire episode of Big Little Lies, and the next you’re screaming at the dog. Hormonal fluctuations can cause increased irritability or a blue feeling. What’s important is to acknowledge that you’re bound to get moody because of the stage you’re in and don’t feel guilty about it.
If you’re feeling really low, seeing a therapist for a few sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help; HRT can help smooth out fluctuating hormone levels; and don’t rule out antidepressants… they can reduce anxiety and mood swings, they’re not addictive, and they can make life for a moody, menopausal woman much more bearable.
Aromatherapy is one of the best natural remedies to help you relax. Treating yourself to an aromatherapy massage or spoiling yourself at home can take the edge off symptoms. Try cooling rose geranium, mandarin and palmarosa essential oils.
Sex has become painful and uncomfortable
After menopause there is no need to worry about becoming pregnant, and for many women, this brings a feeling of liberation and much greater enjoyment of sex – many women do have wonderful sex lives after their periods finish!
However, there are two problems that can rear their heads in the years after and affect sex life following the change – vaginal dryness and lack of libido. Both of these are due to very low levels of hormones.
Speaking of vaginal dryness, estrogen has a moisture-retaining effect on the skin, and this means that after menopause the skin does become noticeably drier and thinner – not only in the more obvious places, like your face, but also in the not-so-obvious, especially the genital area.
It’s a condition known medically as atrophic vaginitis. Not only this, but estrogen also plays an important part in maintaining the glands that produce lubricating fluid when you are sexually aroused.
This means that women notice that sex is dry and uncomfortable, no matter how much foreplay you have. And being honest, even foreplay can be difficult too. Because again the tissues feel dry, there may be a sensation of harsh rubbing rather than stroking.
A cream or lubricant with high water content, such as GynaGuard Lubricating Moisturising Gel, R96, from Clicks, that helps to boost moisture levels in the skin of the intimate area.
This can make the genital area feel more comfortable because the lipids in it help keep the skin supple. You can also chat to your healthcare provider about local estrogen therapy, that’s available as vaginal tablets or cream. According to the International Menopause Society, this is one of the best ways to treat vaginal atrophy because it works fast and is long-lasting. Vaginal estrogen creams are generally applied for 21 days and then you take a break for seven days.
I’m struggling to concentrate
This is really common and most likely caused by not getting enough sleep. So simple, but when you’re regularly woken up by flushes and night sweats – essentially the same thing! – many women end up having problems concentrating. Get the sleep right and you’ll find your focus again…
Avoid triggers such as spicy food, caffeine, alcohol and smoking. If you shower or bath before bed, make it lukewarm. Keep your bedroom cool at night and wear silk or cotton nightwear.
Research from Leeds University showed that using a wool duvet could get you through the night as it naturally pulls heat away from the body and regulates temperature more than down, feather or polyester.
Take a supplement of agnus castus which allows the body to manufacture its own progesterone and achieve hormonal balance. Be patient, it can take a while to kick in. More exercise – though not within two hours of sleeping – can also help.