August 15th 2019
Sex & Gynae
Why we need to talk more about how menopause affects our minds
May 3rd 2019 / 0 comment
We're all more aware of the physical symptoms of the menopause from hot flushes to weight gain, but women are clamouring for greater recognition of symptoms such as anxiety and loss of confidence, according to a new study. Here's what you need to know
There are 13 million women in the UK either in menopause or perimenopause and thankfully the conversation around symptoms is now opening up with prominent women such as Liz Earle and Meg Mathews becoming advocates for greater awareness.
We're seeing more women coming forward to share their experiences of symptoms such as heart palpitations, weight gain, aching joints, hot flushes and tiredness. While we may be more au fait with the physical impact of menopause, the psychological and emotional effects are still relatively undiscussed, as a new study this week highlights.
The study of 2,000 UK women over the age of 50 reveals the negative effects the menopause can have on confidence, and also the extent to which women feel the psychological aspects are overlooked. The research commissioned by health supplements company Healthspan found that 20 per cent of women felt they no longer felt like the person they were before they experienced menopause (defined as a year after your last period, occurring on average at age of 51).
Nearly one-third of women in the study said the impact of the menopause on their lives was underrated. More than one in ten said that menopause made them less confident with hot flushes, weight gain, a feeling of isolation and loss of libido being particularly to blame.
"We often focus on the physical changes associated with ageing and the menopause, but the emotional and psychological impact of life transitions are just as important," said Healthspan psychologist Dr Meg Arroll.
"This survey has highlighted the degree to which women's confidence and mental health can be affected by getting older - and our ageist society has played a role here. The more we discuss this openly, the more we can protect women's mental health."
Low self-esteem prevented a quarter of women from socialising with friends, while 22 per cent felt held back in their career and 14 per cent held back from exercise, according to the research. However, on the plus side, women in their 50s generally felt age brought more confidence than in their twenties, thirties or forties.
In the years leading up to the menopause - the perimenopause - women may experience symptoms such as tiredness and low mood, which can be attributed to other factors such as stress or life in general, even by GPs. Thirty per cent of women do not experience hot flushes, the symptom most associated with the menopause, and often aren't aware that their symptoms are hormonal.
Meg Mathews told GTG that she was prescribed antidepressants instead of given help with her menopause. "It wasn't that I didn't want to go through the menopause, I just didn't know it was happening."
GTG co-founder Sarah Vine has spoken openly about taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and wellbeing entrepreneur Liz Earle has written a myth-busting guide and takes HRT to deal with her symptoms, particularly poor sleep. Supermodel Yasmin Le Bon admitted that health supplements to helped with her "dark" moods in menopause.
Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan medical director, said: "Many women in their forties and fifties are struggling and putting up with an array of very physical symptoms that impact all areas of their lives. There are natural and medical treatments (such as HRT, [vaginal] laser treatments) available that can help support women to manage and alleviate many of the menopausal symptoms such as Healthspan's MenoSerene with sage and isoflavones, plus skincare products with phytoestrogens and CBD Oil can also help aid sleep which is a big problem for 38 per cent of women."