Dr Heather Currie
An associate specialist gynaecologist specialising in menopause, trustee and past chair off the British menopause society and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and MD Menopause Matters
The menopause can be debilitating, so it’s important to empower yourself by seeking help, support and information.
The menopause is a natural stage in every woman’s life. It marks the time when her periods stop as her ovaries run out of eggs or no longer produce eggs. It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age. For some women this can be seen as a liberating time. For others, the symptoms can be debilitating, significantly impacting their physical and emotional health, career, relationships and social life. It’s important for women to know that help and support is available to ensure this natural process is as positive as possible.
Don’t suffer in silence with the menopause
Taboo around the menopause can cause women to ignore their symptoms and avoid treatment, leaving them suffering in silence. We must work together to end the stigma around the menopause and fear of embarrassment when talking about gynaecological health. It’s important to encourage conversations so women can feel comfortable discussing their symptoms, which may be having a huge impact on their life.
Good quality information can help inform women about menopausal symptoms and treatments available, and empower them to take control during this period of transition.
Hot flushes, mood swings and difficulty sleeping
Each woman is different and will respond to the menopause in her own way, both physically and emotionally. Before the full onset of menopause, there is a stage known as perimenopause. This can last for four to five years or longer. During this stage, some women may experience symptoms such as a change in menstrual cycle, hot flushes, night sweats, headaches or dizziness, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, memory problems, loss of interest in sex and weight gain. These symptoms are due to the body adjusting to the decline in levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
Menopause can greatly affect a woman’s sex life
It is common for women to lose interest in sex around the time of the menopause as hormone levels fall. This is often temporary and being able to talk things through with an understanding partner may be all that’s needed. Other symptoms of the menopause can also indirectly contribute to a reduced libido such as hot flushes, sweats, tiredness and mood changes.
Vaginal dryness is also a common problem for women going through the menopause and can have an impact on sexual confidence and enjoyment. There are a number of treatment options available including vaginal lubricants and moisturisers to keep the vagina moist, and vaginal oestrogen which can be prescribed by doctor.
RCOG’s information hub provides support
Good quality information can help inform women about menopausal symptoms and treatments available, and empower them to take control during this period of transition. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ (RCOGs) information hub on the menopause and women’s health in later life aims to help women manage their way through this life stage. The information hub addresses topics women have told us are most important and directs them to resources to support self-care, how to make lifestyle changes and explains treatment options for those women who may need extra help.
If symptoms are stopping you from carrying on with your normal life, please talk to a GP or call NHS 111. A GP can make a diagnosis and discuss treatment options such as hormone replacement therapy, which is widely used to treat menopause symptoms, and offer cognitive behavioural therapy.
Dr Heather Currie is an Associate Specialist Gynaecologist specialising in Menopause, a Spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Trustee and past Chair of the British Menopause Society and Managing Director of Menopause Matters.