Women are keen to share their experiences of the menopause with others. They offer the following advice:
1. Don’t expect to have problems
Not all women have problems going through the menopause. According to Dr Sally Hope, most women either have no symptoms at all and feel fine, or have intermittent symptoms which have little or no real impact on their everyday lives (see What is the menopause?). One woman described herself as “one of the very very lucky women who really didn’t notice the menopause at all.” Having expected “bad things to happen”, another was pleasantly surprised to find herself having few problems during the menopause. As one woman pointed out, “you don’t necessarily all go into a decline and have a lot of problems”.
Geraldine volunteered to take part in research because she hadnt had any great problems
2. Talk to people and get support
Some women feel isolated during the menopause. They may feel embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with others. Rather than creating a wall of silence around the menopause and trying to cope on your own, it’s important to talk about it with friends, partners and colleagues, sharing experiences and so gaining support. One woman suggested you need to “get the ball rolling and be brave enough to be the first person to speak out.” She was surprised to hear her friends were “going through similar things” (see Support networks).
Women sometimes found solidarity among their work colleagues once they started to talk about the menopause and realised they were not alone in suffering hot flushes and other symptoms (see Work). Talking to partners can also help (see Relationships, sex and contraception). According to one woman, men are more likely to be supportive and more tolerant if women confide in them (see Advice to partners).
Rhonda advises women to talk to their partner as well as their peers and supervisors at work
3. Be informed
Going through the menopause is an individual experience and just knowing about your own body and its changes is part of the process of being informed. Alongside this, talking to people, reading, and researching on the internet can help women better understand the menopause. Widely available information can make it easier for women to better understand the changes that are happening to their bodies and what treatments exist. As one woman said, “a little bit of research prepares you better.” Another suggested that women look on the internet for “things written by women for women.” She felt that some of the “very medical” information from her doctor did not give her the support she needed (see Sources of information).
Rose suggests that women start their research before they reach the menopause
4. Seek help
Women recognised that they cannot always manage the menopause on their own. Knowing when to seek medical advice and developing a good relationship with health professionals is important during and after the menopause. Women suggested “seeking a sympathetic GP” if you have heavy bleeding or emotional problems; talking to a doctor or nurse “even about slight symptoms”; and “keeping a really detailed diary” of your symptoms so that the GP is in a better position to give advice (see Consulting the doctor).
Katherine advises women going through an early menopause to see a specialist
5. Be assertive
Women stress the importance of being proactive and assertive in managing the menopause. Taking charge of the process by asking questions, persevering until you get helpful answers, and changing doctors if necessary, can give women a sense of control when symptoms threaten their quality of life. One woman urged others to keep going back to their GP if they felt something was wrong “even if they fob you off”; another advised women to do their own research and be clear about what they wanted when they went in to see their GP rather than accepting advice without question (see Consulting the doctor).
Charlotte encourages other women to push for the menopause services they want.
6. Consider a range of treatment options
Finding the right treatment for menopausal symptoms can be difficult and women may not find “a miracle cure.” What works for one woman may not be suitable for another. Women suggested finding out “what’s good for you”, whether it be simple changes to lifestyle (see Non-HRT and lifestyle options), hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (see Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)), herbal remedies or homeopathy.
While HRT had transformed some women’s lives, they emphasised the importance of finding out as much as possible about the risks and benefits before making a decision, taking into account family history and “the risk of cancer in the family”. Despite widespread use, self medication with herbal remedies can also carry risks and is not recommended by the NHS (see Complementary therapies).
Lorna advises women to think carefully about the latest research before going on HRT
7. Keep healthy
Paying attention to diet, exercise and lifestyle can help women through the menopause. Women suggested keeping “as active as possible”, doing some exercise, “even if it’s meditation or pilates”, and taking up new activities such as swimming. One woman urged others to think about their diet and what triggers set off hot flushes. Women stressed that eating well and exercising made them feel better, as well as helping to prevent osteoporosis. (see Changes in the body and keeping healthy.
Susan counsels women to make sure they keep going for screening
8. Keep the menopause in perspective
As well as keeping healthy, women emphasised the value of maintaining a positive state of mind during the menopause. While acknowledging that the menopause can be a “really bad time” for some women, their message was not to let it take over your life or use it as an excuse to stop you doing what you want to do. One woman stressed the importance of trying to control yourself and “not take your symptoms out on other people.” Others suggested “focusing on something good that’s happening”, and “keeping a sense of humour.” As one woman said, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It’s important to remember that many women find the menopause a positive time in their lives. They see it as a new chapter – an opportunity to develop new interests and get fit and healthy (see Getting older).
Annes advice is to accept the menopause as a part of life
Getting through the menopause is not always easy. By keeping open the channels of communication and sharing information and experiences with other women, partners, colleagues and health professionals, women will feel supported and better informed as they go through it.