When going through menopause, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is an end eventually! So, what does post-menopausal actually mean? This week I take a look at 6 things I think you should know about post-menopause, including when you are considered post-menopausal and what can happen after menopause.
I get asked regularly, "What's the post-menopause going to be like? How am I going to feel? What's going to happen? What is my life going to be like?"
So today, I thought that I would go through some of the most common post-menopause questions that I get asked regularly, as well as things you need to know.
1. When are you considered post-menopausal
Some sources say one year after having no periods. But in our experience over the years, many women come to us, and even after a year or more, their periods can come back, maybe just for one, or two, or maybe for a little while.
I've heard from some women and they contact me and say, "I've been post-menopause for two years. I've still got symptoms." This can happen. For the majority of women, symptoms just don't suddenly stop one day.
It's a question of progression. Your body has spent a long time, sometimes years and years, trying to cope with decreasing hormones. And your body's trying to adapt. It's trying to balance itself.
So, for most women, there will come a point, maybe a few years after periods have stopped, where you suddenly think, "Oh, my symptoms are going," or you start to feel better. You can start to feel more energetic and your mood lifts.
The problem with this is that every single woman is different and there is no way to tell when your symptoms are going to stop. And it's the one question I really wish that I could answer because I get asked it so often.
What can happen, again, is that if you are still suffering from symptoms maybe three, four, five years down the line, at this point, other health issues can come in and they can mimic menopause ones.
So, a lot of women think that they're still getting menopause symptoms, when in fact it could be other health issues. So the main ones to look at here, regardless of what symptoms you're getting, although it's mainly the common ones, such as hot flushes, and sweats, and joint aches, poor sleep, low mood, and anxiety, are things such as low vitamin D, such as low vitamin B12, low iron, low thyroid function, diabetes, and heart disease.
So, if after three or four years after you are considered post-menopausal, you are still suffering from these symptoms, then it's really important to ask your doctor for a general health check because sometimes if these symptoms are from other health conditions, they can be sorted really quickly. So it's worth asking for this.
3. Symptoms can come back
What can happen is two to three years after menopause, you're thinking to yourself, "Oh, I feel fine now. My hot flushes have gone. I'm sleeping better. My mood has lifted." And maybe 5 years down the line, 10 years down the line, or even 20 years down the line, you think to yourself, "I'm getting menopause symptoms again."
But again, as I mentioned above, these can often be due to other health issues. So, if you have been more than five years without periods and you start to get menopause symptoms again, then these are highly unlikely to be hormonal and it's more likely to be other health issues.
My Self-Care Tip: What to do if menopause symptoms come back after menopause
If menopause symptoms come back, or if you are still experiencing them years after menopause, then watch my self-care tip to find out what I recommend you should do:
4. Coming of HRT
A lot of women after menopause are told by their doctors to come off HRT. The problem here is that HRT is giving you an artificially high level of hormones and it fools your body into thinking that you're not going through the menopause, which is great at the time.
The problem is that if you're in your 60s and 70s and you have to come off HRT, you're going from a high level of hormones from the HRT and your natural hormone level will be very low.
So especially if you've come off HRT really quickly, then you can get a very sudden drop of hormones and all your symptoms can come back. So this is one situation where, again, if you are in your 60s, in your 70s, and you've been advised to come off HRT, please speak to your doctor about coming off as slowly as you can, so that your body can adjust much more naturally rather than just stopping overnight, which sometimes can cause problems.
5. You still need to take care of yourself
The menopause can really drain you of energy. It can put an awful lot of pressure on your body physically and emotionally. And once you get to post-menopause, you can't just sit there and go, "That's it. I've done my bit. My body's fine."
We need to keep taking care of ourselves because, after menopause, women are more prone to things like osteoporosis. They are also more prone to things like heart disease and diabetes. So, all the hard work we put into looking after ourselves during the menopause must continue afterward.
6. You won’t go back to how you felt before but you can feel good again
Women often ask me, "After menopause, will I go back to who I was or the way I was?" The answer is no because your body has changed, your hormones have changed. We're not ruled by the monthly storm of hormones going up and down.
So, again, it's about looking after yourself really well and accepting yourself for who you are. You have changed, but you can be as good if not better than you were before.
How I felt when I was post-menopausal
For me, I'm now through the menopause and I can honestly say that I feel better than I did before. Because of not having the monthly emotional ups and downs, I feel much calmer, much more grounded. I'm much more energetic. I'm much fitter. I love to exercise now and I hated it before the menopause. I really didn't try particularly hard. So just from my own experience, I know that you can get through menopause.
Yes, it's tough at the time and I wouldn't go through that again for anything. But once you come out the other side, you can still go on to have a really good, healthy, and enjoyable life.
So, I hope you found this one helpful. It's just realising that if you are struggling a bit through the menopause, there is light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes, that can make you feel that little bit better.
If any of you out there have any great tips for looking after yourself post-menopause, let us know. Also, let us know how you're doing as well. We would love to hear that.
You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.