Has it been more than a full year since you’ve had a period? If that is the case you are now post menopause. Menopause is the point when you no longer have menstrual periods for at least 12 months. Post menopause is the stage after this. As a result you may find that you’ve got more energy and feel much better than you have done for years as your hormone levels begin to stabilise but there are certain conditions that may arise if you don’t look after yourself once you’ve reached the post menopausal stage in your life.
That’s not to say your future will be forever blighted by the symptoms which you may have experienced during perimenopause, it’s rather that the double whammy of oestrogen loss and aging can affect you in certain ways. The good news is that there are certain steps you can take right now to ensure that conditions such as osteoporosis, weight gain and depression are kept at bay.
Post menopause symptoms
The main post menopause symptom is that you will never again experience a menstrual period and will no longer be able to get pregnant (well, without the intervention of a fertility doctor!)
This can be a pretty tough call for some of us. After all, could there be any more definitive sign of getting older than the menopause? In some ways it just doesn’t seem fair. Men can continue being fathers well into their dotage. It’s like someone just turned the youth tap off. But attitudes to postmenopausal women are changing for the better and instead of dwelling on the negatives many of us are now stressing the positives. A life free of period pain and menstrual mood swings, to be able to have sex without worrying about getting pregnant and an increased vitality can make this one of the best times of your life.
We do have to take care of ourselves though. As hormone levels will be constantly low, post menopausal women are at risk of certain conditions including:
Lack of oestrogen can lead to osteoporosis which is when bones become less dense and consequently more fragile. In fact postmenopausal women lose an average of 25% of their bone mass as a result of the reduction in oestrogen. Obviously this means bone fractures are much more likely as we get older, unless we take steps to prevent osteoporosis happening.
Coronary artery disease
Oestrogen is essential for healthy arteries but when this becomes depleted post menopause you can become prone to coronary artery disease. This is where the arteries around the heart become narrowed or are blocked as fatty plaque builds up in the artery walls. This build up can cause high cholesterol levels in the blood. Other risk factors include:
- Higher blood pressure
- Being less active
- The long term effects of bad habits such as smoking and drinking excessively
Mental health problems
Depression, anxiety, insomnia and other mental health problems can be one of the by-products of menopause and certain mental illnesses can be exacerbated as the result of fluctuating hormones. Research has revealed a link between increased depressive episodes in women with bipolar disorder and also that this can trigger psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia.
The good news is that post menopause levels of anxiety can decrease and as we get older we can gain a better perspective on things that can cause us stress.
Vaginal dryness can be one of the post menopause symptoms which affect your sex life.
You may also experience an abnormal discharge. This occurs because lower oestrogen levels cause the vagina to thin and become drier – a condition called atrophic vaginitis and a thin, dry vagina is more likely to become irritated and inflamed, producing a discharge. You may also experience post menopausal vaginal bleeding, which is usually harmless but needs to be checked out by a doctor.
Remedies for post menopause symptoms
We are not all the same and while some of us might experience a whole raft of symptoms post-menopause, others will be hardly affected by the changes that have taken place in their body. Some conditions, for example, certain mental illnesses need to be treated by a mental health professional while others can be addressed through lifestyle changes.
Here are some ways you can alleviate post menopause symptoms
Improve your diet
Not only will eating more wholegrains, fresh fruit and vegetables and oily fish help with a whole range of post menopausal symptoms but they’ll help you keep in check those fat deposits which are responsible for the excess inches you may have added to your post menopause tummy.
Increase your calcium intake
Postmenopausal women need to alter their diet increasing things like calcium intake. Before menopause, you should have about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. After menopause, you should have up to 1,200 mg of calcium per day. You also need to up your intake of vitamin D which can greatly cut your risk of spinal fractures. But don’t overdo it. If you need advice on how much you should be taking, consult your doctor.
Exercise involving a mixture of cardio and resistance training can be extremely effective in preventing osteoporosis and heart disease but it can also help to improve your mental wellbeing.
By giving up smoking you’ll reduce your chances of heart disease, cancer and many other illnesses.
Oestrogen creams can be effective in restoring elasticity in the vaginal area while lubricants will make sex more pleasurable.
Choose a way to relax that suits you. Meditation and yoga are great ways to help you relax but if you find yourself getting more uptight as you do your downward dog then look at other ways. Even regular exercise such as a brisk walk, or dance class can work wonders in reducing stress levels.
Be kind to yourself
You’ve come through the menopause which is no mean feat so don’t punish yourself for not being the person you once were (ie younger). There are post menopausal women out there enjoying life, love and their wellbeing to the full and a devil-may-care attitude to life can often work wonders.
Emma is a multi-entrepreneur. She founded The Menopausal Godmother and Acupuncture That Works. She specialises in acupuncture for menopause & fertility and has delivered acupuncture to over 1000 women going through the menopause.