The menopause can sometimes feel like a bit of a muddle but there are three distinct phases. The build up (perimenopause) the main event (menopause) and the grand finale (post menopause) each defined by different symptoms and characteristics. Food Scientist and nutritionist Susie Debice reveals the tell-tale signs that your menopause has finally completed.
The menopause is a journey governed by changing hormones and a destination that marks the end of your fertility and the beginning of a new phase of womanhood. The problem is that many women think that their menopause finishes when their periods stop but this just isn’t the case, for someone the menopause can carry on for several years after the last period – let’s find out why…
When does the menopause begin?
For most women the menopause will begin at some point between the age of 45 and 55 years old. According to the NHS the average age for menopause to begin is at the age of 51. This doesn’t mean that this is when your periods will stop. The first signs of the menopause (called the perimenopause) include symptoms of anxiety, mood swings, poor sleep, hot flushes, vaginal dryness and low libido and these can all start to occur sporadically and while you are still having regular periods.
How long does the menopause last?
Everyone is different, some women can whizz through the menopause in just 2 to 4 years whereas for other women the menopause can be a lengthy and drawn-out process. Research seems to reveal that you are likely to have a similar length of menopause as your mother, so it’s well worth talking to your mother about her experience, when it started, what her main symptoms where, when her periods stopped and how old she was when are symptoms stopped and she started to feel more energised.
How will my periods change during the menopause?
As you go through the middle phase of your menopause your periods will change and your symptoms could become a lot more frequent and more accentuated. Again, everyone is different. Some women experience months or even a few years of extremely heavy and lengthy periods which may fall closer together, before eventually experiencing lighter and less frequent periods. Whereas other women may have the opposite experience, their periods become light and scanty and very spaced out with the occasional heavy period thrown in for good measure!
Eventually, the gaps between periods get longer and longer and eventually your periods will stop all together, but this doesn’t mean that your menopause is over. You may no longer be having periods BUT the last phase of your menopause is all about symptom frequency and severity.
Becoming symptom free indicates the end of your menopause!
According to the NHS your menopausal symptoms may continue for up to 4 years (or longer!) after your last period. Your periods may have finished but symptoms such as insomnia, hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety and depression could all become more of an issue.
Eating a healthy balanced diet, rich in foods that contain phytoestrogens, B vitamins and omega 3 fats while leading an active lifestyle or increasing exercise helps to offset menopause weight gain and support physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. This is the time when some women start exploring natural forms of HRT or bioidentical hormones to help ease the last remaining symptoms.
After what may seem like a long time of unrest and difficulty, eventually your symptoms clear and you start to feel renewed, energised and restored. Your menopause is officially over when you have been free from periods AND symptoms for a year if you are over 50 and 2 years if you are under 50.
Time to embrace this next phase of your life!