Updated: Jul 26
Peri-menopause or menopause?
More people are now beginning to talk openly about the menopause, thanks in some ways, to recent high profile tv programmes on the subject but we still need to talk about it a lot more.
Hormonal changes may first be noticed in the mid to late 40's when some women experience changes to the regularity of their menstrual cycle. This is when certain hormone levels begin to fluctuate and we first start to wonder what is going on. This is also usually when the first signs of menopause related anxiety begin to appear, as most of us simply aren't ready for it.
This transitional time of life is a natural process but one which is sadly still viewed as an illness by many. Menopause brings all sorts of changes - both mental and physical, which can differ from one woman to the next. Most menopausal women experience hot and sometimes cold flushes, sweats during the night, or sometimes the day, a significant change in sleeping habits and many may also notice feeling anxious and/or having mood swings.
However it may affect you, one thing is for certain. It's not nice. What you're not told beforehand is there are many other changes which can also occur. Less well known, or openly discussed, are the common symptoms of heart palpitations*, muscular or joint aches and pains, dryness of mentionable and unmentionable parts, a feeling of total fatigue most of the time and an utter lack of motivation. Yes! Where did that go? So, as you are piling on the dreaded fat around the middle - due to oestrogen depletion - you realise the best thing to do is to get moving and try to burn it off - only to discover that you no longer have that drive or energy to exercise, even if you used to have an abundance of it! Why didn't they tell you it was like this? You're now newly and frustratingly tired ALL THE TIME. Oh yes - and to top it all off - you just don't feel sexy anymore.
Photo credit: Annie Spratt
In my experience, a lot of these natural symptoms are only found out about by 'googling' and searching forums on the subject. Until now we haven’t been encouraged to talk about menopause at all. All of these new and unexpected changes may add up to a feeling of low self-esteem, a lack of confidence or a feeling that you are no longer likeable or a nice person to be around. Not helped of course, if you also have teenage children at home - who are at the other end of the scale and are riding their own hormonal rollercoaster.
ACCEPTANCE IS KEY
The toughest part of this transition in a woman's life, but the most crucial, is ACCEPTANCE. Menopause is a natural part of ageing. That doesn't make it any easier to bare, I know, but perhaps it could; perhaps it should. Accepting that we are growing older is something that society seems to frown upon and many hugely successful companies benefit from the stigma surrounding this natural process, making it harder for us to accept it ourselves. How can we be ok with menopause when the rest of the world around us isn't? How can we be ok with ageing when we are bombarded with messages from the media telling us we mustn't have wrinkles, or grey hair; or be out of shape - or just basically get OLD? Apparently its just not cool. Well, I have something to share with you which a very dear person once said to me...
"Getting old is a privilege denied to many".
Our society has created a stigma linked to growing old and menopause is a huge part of that. Couples struggle to talk about it (because quite frankly, it is awkward) and only the most understanding and forward thinking partners are willing to even try to understand what the hell is going on. So, we have become accustomed to trying to pretend it is NOT happening - and that we are all just FINE.
Whilst at the same time getting together with our friends and comparing symptoms, which is the only thing that makes us feel a bit more ‘normal’ - whatever that is.
could acupuncture help?
Taking prescription hormones to slow down or deal with the symptoms has become the norm in modern western cultures and it seems to have become more acceptable to take some form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) than not.
Friends are surprised when told that you don't take anything for your menopause. Newsflash!... it is not a disease. Many women do find great relief from HRT, don't get me wrong - I am not trying to put you off HRT as it really can be life changing for some. I am merely trying to let you know that there ARE other alternatives which may be worth considering.
Here's some interesting information from Evidence Based Acupuncture on the subject:
"Since the menopausal transition is such an individual and elongated process, tailored treatments such as those used in acupuncture may provide significant benefits. Various studies have shown that acupuncture may offer relief from some of the most common menopausal symptoms.
Vasomotor (hot flushes/sweats)
Depression and anxiety
Sleep disturbance and insomnia
Current prescribing guidelines suggest that the benefits of HRT generally outweigh the risks for most women aged 60 or under, or within 10 years of menopause. However, there is also evidence that these hormones can increase the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. With so much conflicting information in circulation, the decision regarding whether or not to take HRT is a difficult one.
Acupuncture, on the other hand, has a demonstrated track-record of safety and when performed by appropriately trained clinicians, has been found one of the safest treatments in modern medicine."
Alison was awarded a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Chinese Acupuncture with Greenwich University, having studied a three year full time degree at the International College of Oriental Medicine - (www.orientalmed.ac.uk), where she is also now part of the teaching faculty.
Alison incorporates Traditional Chinese Medicine, Five Element and Classical Stems and Branches approaches in her acupuncture treatments. She is a member of the Institute of Sports & Remedial Massage (www.theisrm.com) and of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC).(www.acupuncture.org.uk) and practices from The Perrymount Clinic in Haywards Heath.
If you would like to discuss your menopause journey and options for treatment, why not get in touch for more information? Alison offers free 15 minute consultations at The Perrymount clinic in Haywards Heath where you can discuss your symptoms in complete confidentiality and ask any questions you may have in regard to the acupuncture treatments.
Jane FM, Davis SR. A Practitioner’s Toolkit for Managing the Menopause. Climacteric. 2014; 17(5): p.564-579.
Linde, K., Streng, A., Hoppe, A., Jürgens, S., Weidenhammer, W., & Melchart, D. (2006). The programme for the evaluation of patient care with acupuncture (PEP-Ac) – a project sponsored by ten German social health insurance funds. Acupuncture in Medicine, 24(Suppl), 25–32. https://doi.org/10.113610.1136/aim.24.Suppl.25
*Please note - if you are experiencing heart palpitations it is advisable to seek medical attention before trying alternative therapies. This article does not intend to suggest ignoring medical advice. Always check recommended doses for any supplements or medications and if in doubt, always consult with a pharmacist or your GP.