Historically, menopause doesn’t get many mentions in the history books – not least because it was seen as a ‘woman’s issue’ to be dealt with behind closed doors.
We know that in the 1800s some doctors prescribed opium and cannabis to help deal with symptoms, which if not actively helping, might at least have made women forget about them.
We know for centuries Native Americans have been using the herb black cahosh to alleviate symptoms and this traditional herbal remedy is still widely used today.
By the 1890s a powder made by pulverising cow’s ovaries was used to treat menopausal symptoms.
Breakthroughs in hormone therapy followed in the 1930s and 40s but even as recently as a decade ago, talking about and tackling menopausal symptoms was not really up for discussion and the range of help was limited.
These days the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage symptoms is widespread and as menopause slowly becomes less likely to be suffered in silence a whole new market has opened up to help us move more seamlessly through these changes.
Some of the most helpful include:
WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is defined as the changes a woman goes through just before and after she stops her periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
Some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms, around 60 percent experience symptoms resulting in behavioral changes and one in four will suffer severely.
Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness leading to discomfort during sex, disrupted sleep, decreased sex drive, problems with memory and concentration and mood swings.
1. COOLING VESTS AND UNDERWEAR
If the classic image of a red-faced woman looking slightly deranged dripping with sweat and standing in front of an open fridge or a fan has made menopausal hot flushes seem something of a joke, to any woman actually experiencing them it’s not so funny.
Flushes and night sweats can be severely debilitating.
You can open a window, put on a fan, take a cool shower and invest in cooler clothes and more menopause-friendly bedding but now underwear brand Become has launched menopause underwear specifically designed to cool you down claiming the unique material they are made from ‘regulates body temperature, whisks moisture away from the body and reduces odor’.
Apparently 87 percent of women who have tried this ‘Anti-Flush’ underwear say they have seen a reduction in the number of hot flushes and night sweats they experience.
Underwear brand Become has launched menopause underwear specifically designed to cool you down claiming the unique material they are made from ‘regulates body temperature, whisks moisture away from the body and reduces odor’
2. MOISTURIZERS FOR… EVERYWHERE
As estrogen levels drop during the perimenopause and menopause, so your skin can become increasingly sensitive, dry and itchy.
Unfortunately, few bits of you are immune: your eyes, ears and vagina can also be in the firing line. Drinking plenty of water; switching to a richer cleanser and moisturizer; including essential fats in your diet like omega 3 fatty acids (found in oily fish like salmon); consuming more soy products (which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body); reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake; eating more vitamin C rich foods to create skin-cushioning collagen and taking a sea buckthorn supplement should go some way to help.
And if vaginal dryness and itching is a problem GP Dr Louise Newson says: ‘This is a common problem yet most women still don’t talk about it. Lower estrogen levels can result in the lining of the vagina becoming thinner, less elastic and lubricated. A vaginal moisturizer like Regelle Long Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer can help.’
3. THE MENOPAUSE SANCTUARY
In a landmark in menopause care Dr Louise Newson has just opened her Newson Health Menopause & Wellbeing Centre in Warwickshire.
It is the first clinic of its kind devoted entirely to helping women experiencing perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms which Dr Newson launched it in response to overwhelming demand from the female patients in her GP practice.
Offering a whole range of strategies – from HRT to nutritional advice and complementary therapies – women are offered a personalised holistic package to help them manage their menopause.
Crucially, it is also a space where women are listened to and can share their experiences. It is staggering to think no-one thought of doing this before.
Newson Health Menopause & Wellbeing Centre is the first clinic of its kind devoted entirely to helping women experiencing perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms
4. THE RISE OF MENOPAUSE BUDDIES
With an estimated 13 million women in the UK currently experiencing menopausal symptoms there is no reason why anyone should suffer needlessly.
Psychologist Dr Megan Arroll, co-author of The Menopause Maze (with Jessica Kingsley), suggests the time is right to change our whole thinking about menopause.
‘Don’t think of these as your ‘lost years’ but rather as a time when life should be taken by the horns so that personal growth and transformation can occur,’ Dr Arroll says.
She adds that if you are getting negative about how the menopause is making you feel hook up with your female friends: ‘Women are exceptionally good at giving their support.’
If you don’t want to burden your friends you can also find plenty of support online in forums like Menopause Matters, Menopause Support, and Meg Matthews’ site.
5. USING ROSEMARY WATER TO DE-FOG YOUR BRAIN
Menopausal brain fog and forgetfulness can often be more of a worry for menopausal women than physical symptoms like hot flushes.
Getting enough sleep is vital but night sweats can conspire to get in the way of this. HRT could also help.
But one surprisingly simple aid appears to be the herb rosemary.
Used for thousands of years as a memory aid, a clinical trial from last year appears to confirm its effectiveness in improving memory in children.
Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to a tissue and inhaling deeply can help clear your mind and temporarily improve your recall.
Or, try No 1 Botanicals Rosemary Water. Though not specifically aimed at menopausal women, this water containing carefully extracted rosemary will hydrate you (even mild dehydration makes it harder to concentrate) and the rosemary should make your brain less foggy.
One surprisingly simple aid appears to be the herb rosemary which can be put in water
6. TONERS THAT REACH PARTS OTHERS DON’T
It’s not quite the stuff of dinner party conversation yet but the decline in estrogen coupled with general loss of muscle associated with ageing puts postmenopausal women more at risk of pelvic floor problems like mild bladder leakage and vaginal dryness.
It used to be women had to put up and shut up with these concerns but there are now treatments and products to help including the VSculpt PRO pelvic floor toner.
This uses infrared light and heat to help to tighten and rejuvenate vaginal tissue and tone pelvic floor muscles helping to increase vaginal lubrication and helping improve bladder control.
Women who have tried this product also report that sex improves.
Alternatively, try Femiintimate Intimrelax Vaginal Dilators, containing three vaginal dilators perform a similar, if less technological, function to help reduce vaginal dryness.
7. VAGINAL PROBIOTICS
We know probiotics can help encourage healthy flora in the gut but in the vagina, blimey, who saw that coming?
But imbalances in vaginal flora can potentially lead to repeated episodes of conditions like thrush (although incidences can reduce post menopause) and bacterial vaginosis (BV), the prevalence of which can increase with age.
Probiotics can ease imbalances in vaginal flora that potentially lead to repeated episodes of conditions like thrush
Symptoms of BV can include light bleeding, discharge, itchy and uncomfortable vagina and painful intercourse.
The Medical Chambers Kensington gynecologist Dr Tania Adib says: ‘Women who have recurrent vaginal infections, and those on antibiotics, especially if taken long term for stubborn infections, could benefit from vaginal probiotics the most.’
Canesten Canesflor Thrush Probiotic Capsules contains a probiotic strain said to create a protective barrier over the vaginal walls.