Home » Menopause

Category: Menopause

Managing the Sensitive Symptoms of Menopause

Many menopausal women lose interest in sex but TV doctor, Dawn Harper says it’s possible to bring back the fun between the sheets. In this article she discusses the sensitive symptoms of menopause.

Dr Dawn Harper
Boost your sex drive. Embarrassing Bodies doctor, Dawn Harper stresses the importance of seeking help for menopause related symptoms.

Dr Dawn Harper, the vibrant and delightful medical presenter of the popular Channel 4 show Embarrassing Bodies, understands the complex issues facing menopausal women and their erratic sex drives. A much-loved GP in Gloucestershire, where she lives with her GP husband Graham and three children, Dr Dawn has been fielding questions from troubled patients and viewers for years.

She says the havoc caused to women’s libidos is due to mischievous hormones. “The average age for the menopause in the UK is 50 to 52 when the ovaries stop producing eggs but oestrogen levels can fall anytime from the mid-40s. Hormone levels fluctuate wildly during this time. A lot of women ask for blood tests to check their hormones but readings can vary from day to day.

“As far as I’m concerned, if a woman of a certain age has menopausal symptoms, then it doesn’t really matter what her blood tests say, she needs help! Some women are very sensitive to fluctuating hormones. Post-menopause, the low level of oestrogen has stabilised.”

Lack of oestrogen often leads to vaginal dryness, which makes sex uncomfortable or painful so women avoid sex. “Sex is meant to be fun! Why would you want to have sex if it’s jolly well uncomfortable!” she quips.

You don’t have to just accept it as a normal part of ageing
Dr Dawn recommends oestrogen pessaries or creams to enhance lubrication. “It is so important to see your GP and ask for help. Vaginal dryness shouldn’t be accepted as a normal part of ageing.” Female libido is complicated according to Dr Dawn. Other menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes, mood swings, being tearful and suffering low confidence also affect a woman’s interest in sex.

“If you are waking in a drenching sweat several times a night and are chronically sleep deprived, well that’s a good reason for wanting to get to sleep when your head hits the pillow. Weight gain around the midriff, once known as middle-aged spread, can also make a woman feel less attractive and sexy.

“A woman’s interest in sex is affected by a multitude of factors including stresses at work, a messy house and worrying about what the kids are up to! The Empty Nest Syndrome can be a boost to romance but can also bring relationship problems. Women are all very different in how we manage this passage of life.”

Dr Dawn recommends a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise as positive ways to navigate the turbulence of menopause.

Time to Stop Whispering About Women’s Health

MenopauseIn the past, conversations about gynaecology, childbirth, the menopause, or other problems ‘down there’ – often called “women’s troubles” – would be in hushed tones.

As I trained as a doctor and gynaecologist I found out what really goes on ‘down there’. The knowledge helped me understand how to keep myself healthy and today I want all women to share that knowledge.

Women now talk more openly, but there are still taboos around the menopause, fertility, HRT, and conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer. Too many women still do not have the essential knowledge needed to keep themselves healthy.

This Autumn events will bring women’s health to the fore and make it easier for women to get the information they need.

National Fertility Awareness Week (November 2-8) will provide advice, support and understanding to the one in six couples struggling to become parents (see www.infertilitynetworkuk.com)

After over a decade of confusion and controversy about menopause, and in particular, concern about risks of HRT, November brings new NICE guidelines about the Diagnosis and Management of the Menopause, which are expected to raise awareness of the importance of the menopause and consequences of estrogen deficiency, as well as dispel many myths around treatment options so that women can make truly informed decisions about the management of their menopause.

It’s time to stop whispering. Speak up about women’s health, ask questions and bring the issues into the open so all women benefit.

The Secret Menopause Symptom That Many Women Needlessly Suffer In Silence

Vaginal dryness is the great unspoken menopause symptom, yet a simple, easy treatment could reduce pain, reinvigorate your sex life and enhance your relationship.

Secret Menopause Symptom

Vaginal Dryness is the Secret Symptom of the Menopause.

Gynaecologist Edward Morris, chair of the British Menopause Society (BMS), says: “It’s rarely mentioned in consultations, even though vaginal atrophy, which results in vaginal dryness, affects all women during and after the menopause. Embarrassment, modesty or the mistaken belief that nothing can be done mean many women suffer in silence – yet simple treatmentscan change their lives.”

Vaginal atrophy, the reduction in stretchability and function of the vagina, is caused by falling oestrogen levels. The walls of the vagina get thinner and less elastic and lubrication is reduced, resulting in dryness, higher risk of irritation, reduced resistance to urinary and vaginal infections, and painful intercourse.

“Vaginal dryness can mean that a woman unconsciously associates intercourse with pain, which can reduce her libido and lead to conflict and relationship problems,” says Morris.

There is Treatment Out There

Yet treatment is simple. Prescribed products include vaginal oestrogen creams, or tiny oestrogen tablets that stick to the vaginal walls and deliver a more reliable dose. While both contain enough oestrogen to restore the vagina to its former condition and reduce the risk of infections, a year’s cumulative dosage of the tablets is only the equivalent of one tablet of HRT. Women can use them for as long as they choose. A new orally-taken tablet should be available in the UK soon.

Over-the-counter products such as vaginal moisturisers and sexual Quotelubricants can also help, as can avoiding potential irritants such as perfumed soaps, bath products and vaginal deodorants, and rinsing the vulval area thoroughly. Creams designed to ease irritation may contain preservatives which irritate some women, but swapping to ointments, which have less preservatives, can help, says Morris.

Linda Lusardi Explains How She Coped With The Menopause

Question: How does a busy actress cope with the changes that come with the menopause? Answer: Linda Lusardi talks about how she was at first unbelieving and finally accepting of the changes that come with ‘the change’.

Linda Lusardi

The menopause caught actress Linda Lusardi unawares.

“I was doing panto in Northampton three years ago and kept getting really hot at night. I drove my husband Sam mad, complaining that the heating was turned up too high and the quilt was too thick. When he suggested I might be going through the change I was most offended.

“Like a lot of women I was in denial. How could I be going through the menopause? I didn’t feel old enough.” However, over the next few months it became clear that Linda, now 56, was going through ‘the change’.

Hot flushes were a particular problem. “A mad panic would come over me and I had to get my coat off,” says Linda. “If I was driving I would have to pull over, get out of the car and get as many clothes off as I could decently do. It felt like burning up from the inside.

Friends suggested herbal remedies and she tried many but none helped. “The next panto came around and I was having difficulty remembering my lines. I did not have my usual spark. When the season finished I went to the doctor and he prescribed HRT,” says Linda.

“It worked wonders – within about three months I was back to normal. I also take an Omega7 supplement that lubricates the joints and improves dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, and dryness that comes with the menopause. My skin and health has never been better, but nevertheless I found the only positive element of the menopause was no monthly periods.”

So what message would Linda pass on to other women?

“Some people sail through the menopause hardly noticing it, as my sister and my mother did. As for me, I tried not to let it disrupt my life, but it did,” she says.

“Women should do what is right for them. If symptoms stop you enjoying your life consider herbal remedies. My sister-in-law controlled her hot flushes with herbal remedies very successfully.

“There is no shame in going on HRT, though it is not for people with a history of breast cancer. My doctor suggested trying to give it a break after three years to see if the symptoms are still there, but so far I haven’t been brave enough to try!”

New Menopause Treatment Guidelines Cut Through the Confusion

The new NICE guideline on diagnosis and management of the menopause cut through the confusion and deliver the message that treatment starts with the individual woman.

Dr Heather Currie

Menopause Treatment

Menopause treatment should be tailored to the individual woman. That’s the number one message of the latest NICE guidelines on diagnosis and management of the menopause – and about time too.

“All women are different and so are their experiences of the menopause and how they respond to treatment. These new guidelines put what is best for each individual woman at the forefront,” says Dr Heather Currie, Chair of the British Menopause Society.

The new guidelines offer women clear, evidence-based information to break through the conflict and confusion about menopause treatments. They reject a one-size-fits-all approach and instead recommend that treatment decisions should take into account a woman’s individual symptoms, past history, family history, diet, lifestyle and individual preferences and concerns.

Doctors should place more emphasis on explaining to women the stages and consequences of the menopause, which extends beyond flushes and sweats to include psychological symptoms, musculo-skeletal, vaginal, bladder and sexual effects, as well as long-term effects on bone and cardiovascular health.

On diagnosis, the guidelines suggest that blood tests to diagnose menopause or perimenopause in women over 45 be abandoned, as the level of hormone tested fluctuates significantly and bears no relationship to severity of symptoms. “Reducing this inappropriate testing will free up time for consultation and reduce treatment delays, as well as saving money,” says Dr Currie.

Discussing Options

All treatments types should be discussed and advice given about maintaining general health by stopping smoking,  losing weight, reducing alcohol consumption and increasing levels of exercise if appropriate.

On the controversial subject of HRT, the guidelines suggest it should be offered, after consideration of benefits and risks, for symptoms such as flushes and sweats, since it was shown to be the most effective treatment with minimal risks. They suggest that vaginal estrogen should be offered for urogenital symptoms.

For low mood, the guidelines say that doctors should not routinely offer clonidine or antidepressants and that HRT or cognitive behavioural therapy be considered instead.

Dr Currie says: “For the first time, leading experts have examined all of the existing evidence and presented information and advice which will enable women to better understand the consequences of the menopause and make informed choices about treatment.

“Women deserve high-quality information on their choices. While too much information may be confusing for women, who may want their health professional to tell them what’s best, managing the menopause is an area of medicine that is truly individual. We hope this guidance will empower both health professionals and women to work together on deciding the best treatment options for them. “

How to be Middle-Aged and Menopausal Without Going Insane

Jenny Eclair

Self-confessed ‘Grumpy Old Woman’ and comedian Jenny Eclair talks car rage, mismatching underwear and the hobbies that saved her life as she struggled with her menopause.

Comedian and novelist Jenny Eclair speaks about the menopause not as an expert but as a woman who has experienced it, and who thinks it deserves to be aired.

“There are still some very old-fashioned attitudes,” she says, citing a GP who referred to her vagina as her ‘downstairs’.

Jenny Eclair Quote“It’s never been a taboo subject for me,” says Jenny, who describes her decision to take Hormone Replacement Therapy as “that or Holloway”, due to the extreme rage – “car rage… danger to myself rage” – she experienced as a result of her hormone changes. Of the medication, she says: “It‘s turned me into the woman I should always have been… but with the thickest hair and nails”.

For a woman who has made a living about sharing life experiences with audiences numbering into hundreds, it is hardly surprising that Jenny doesn’t find it difficult to share her own menopause experience.

Of course, she can understand why others do. “There are still some very old-fashioned attitudes,” she says, citing a GP who referred to her vagina as her ‘downstairs’. However, once you start to talk about the menopause you realise there is a very wide spectrum of experience, she says. “The most important thing to remember is that if you need help with your menopausal symptoms, make sure you get it.”

Jenny describes as her “lifesaver” hobbies such as art and embroidery, and spending time in or near water. She says: “It’s hard to be bad-tempered in water.” She has also taken a lot of pleasure from being able to do charitable work, such as supporting a prison charity.

Equally important, she believes, is to be able to surround yourself with a good social support network. When asked about the upside of middle age, Jenny says that women become more supportive to each other:

“We have stopped being in competition with each other, we don’t want that dream job or man anymore –even if they were still up for grabs.”

She also reflects that by middle age, there is shared experience of the ‘big life’ stuff, like parents dying, children growing up, the heartbreak of downsizing or of not being able to downsize because the children won’t or can’t leave home. And, she says, there is shared sympathy with the “haunted-looking” middle-aged woman in the supermarket on late Christmas Eve or early Christmas Day, who’s clearly forgotten to buy the turkey…

“The most important thing to remember is that if you need help with your menopausal symptoms, make sure you get it.”

For women of this “certain age”, Jenny’s latest show ‘How to Be A Middle-Aged Woman (Without Going Insane)’ is not only entertaining, it’s a safe haven almost universally made up of women of the same certain age. Here, women can share their admiration for 56-year-old Jenny who appears in publicity material for the show dressed only in bra and mismatched knickers.

Together they can enjoy Jenny’s characters such as Menopause Woman “who would fly around the world in her bra and pants with a pinny tied under her chin like a cloak”, or whose hot flushes can be put to good use by getting rid of those expensive patio heaters in pub gardens and employing middle-aged women to circulate around to heat things up.”

In the middle-aged woman’s world, the idea of being paid for that in Chardonnay tokens will always go down well.

How Menopause and Urinary Incontinence are Related

Menopause can often create new experiences to you with some of them difficult to deal with, for example; there may be weight gain, hot sweats, mood swings and much more.

Menopause and Incontinence

One difficulty you may experience with the menopause is an overactive or sensitive bladder. If you do experience this, be assured that you are not alone as urinary incontinence is quite a common issue for menopausal women.

Regardless of how common this issue is, an overactive bladder can be embarrassing and hard to live with, your personal life can be affected as well as your exercise routine and your social life may become affected. To overcome these issues, you need to find the right incontinence solutions and products to suit you.

Never Lose Hope

It is important to know that urinary incontinence can be treated, sometimes cured or at the least properly managed. What you should not do is ignore the problem and hope that it goes away. This will rarely go away on its own and will often become worse over time.

It is better to educate yourself about why you are experiencing incontinence and how it is connected to menopause. It is important to know what the symptoms of this are, the reasons for it and what you can do to treat this.

The Symptoms of Menopausal Incontinence

There are a number of common signs of a menopausal sensitive bladder and you need to know what they are. The first sign is that you leak urine when you exercise, cough or sneeze. Another sign is when you leak urine on your way to the bathroom. Waking up more than twice during the night to urinate and frequent urinary tract infections will also be signs of this problem.

The Common Causes of a Menopausal Sensitive Bladder

There are a few reasons why you might be having urinary incontinence during menopause. It is important to know what some of the most common reasons will be.

Weak pelvic floor muscles are the first cause that you should know about. Your pelvic floor muscles will naturally weaken during menopause. However, when this happens you will have less bladder control, and this will cause more frequent urination in menopausal women.

A prolapse during menopause will be when organs start to sag against the pelvic floor. There are some women who describe feeling a lump in the vagina where the organ is sagging against the pelvic floor. The organ that is sagging could be the bladder, the uterus or the bowel. Prolapse will cause strain on the pelvic floor.

Another cause will be a reduction in bladder elasticity. The elasticity at the base of the bladder could slacken and this will cause problems as it cannot stretch correctly to accommodate the liquid that fills it. This will result in your bladder being irritated as it fills which will cause the sensation of an overactive bladder. This will make you feel like going to the bathroom more than you need.

When menopause starts, estrogen will no longer be produced by the body. When this happens, your body will become more susceptible to incontinence as estrogen helps to keep the tissues around the bladder strong. The lack of estrogen can cause the bladder to stop working in the way that it was.

There are many women who suffer from weight gain during menopause. This will affect your pelvic floor muscles as they support much of your body weight. When these muscles are strained by excess weight, they will not be able to support your bladder correctly which leads to stress incontinence.

How to Manage Urinary Incontinence

The first step you should take in managing your urinary incontinence is to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with contraction exercises. You should also try and stay as close to your normal healthy weight as possible. To protect against urinary tract infections, you will need to keep up with personal hygiene, be careful when you wipe and ensure that you drink fluids (preferable water) on a regular basis.

These management methods will work, but the overall effectiveness will depend on the cause of your incontinence. This is why you need to talk to your doctor when you see the first signs of urinary incontinence. They will be able to diagnose the cause and offer additional treatment options if you need them. You could ask your doctor about training or surgery that could treat a prolapse or find out if there are any other underlying causes for your overactive bladder.

Incontinence products such as disposable pads, pants and nappies are readily available, you can even purchase washable pants and knickers that look and feel just like normal underwear but have a built-in absorbent pad to help manage light leakage.

Regardless of the route, you take to treat this, you need to keep in mind that many women have bladder control issues at this stage of their life. Having a sensitive bladder does not have to take over your your day-today activities and get in the way of living a fulfilling life.

Related Article: We Need to Talk About Incontinence