Learn about 9 unexpected ways menopause can affect your body – and what to do about them.
As menopause (your final menstrual cycle) approaches, your estrogen level fluctuates severely before dropping by up to 90%.1 This wild hormone ride can impact your mind and body in unexpected ways.
Chat with your doctor. Discomfort in menopause is expected but there are a number of medical and lifestyle changes you can make to ease the struggle, including giving your hormones a boost.
During menopause, falling estrogen can affect your mood, memory, and ability to focus. You might feel irritable, fatigued, stressed, sad, or anxious.
Many of the mental and emotional symptoms of menopause can be self-managed using techniques such as mindfulness and relaxation. If at any point your mental health concerns you, talk to your doctor. Treatment options include psychological therapies and medications.
This is not-great news. Menopausal and post-menopausal women are at greater risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke. Unfortunately, if you have had your uterus or ovaries removed and have reached menopause early, you’re at an even greater risk of heart problems.
Find out about your family history so you have a good idea of your baseline risk. When menopause starts, talk to your doctor about how to keep your heart as healthy as can be, and what signs of disease you should look out for.
Menopause is essentially a shutting up of the baby shop. Over time, periods will become lighter, less predictable, and less frequent until they stop completely. Once periods have stopped, your ovaries no longer release eggs and fertility ends.
Use an app to track your cycle, flow, and associated symptoms. “The change” is considered complete when you’ve been period-free for 12 months. If fertility is a concern for you, talk to your doctor about your options.
Until the mid-30s, your body is able to keep up with natural bone loss by creating new bone. After that, your bones become weaker. Menopause increases your risk of low bone density which ranges in severity from osteopenia to osteoporosis. This can put you at an increased risk of injury.
Diet and exercise are your bones’ best friends. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any changes you need to make to keep your bones strong. They may recommend menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) to improve joint and muscle pain.
Without as much estrogen, your skin loses elasticity and its ability to hold water. This can lead to wrinkles and sagging, and make you feel dry. In keeping with the “puberty in reverse” theme, you might also get your first burst of acne in 35 years.
Treat your skin to gentle lotions to reduce dryness and irritation.
These changes will be all too familiar to anyone who’s been pregnant. Reduced estrogen can cause the lining of your urethra (the tube that leads urine out of the bladder) to become thinner and less elastic. This might make you need to wee more frequently and can lead to surprise leaking. This thinner urethra can also make you more prone to urinary tract infections.
Work that pelvic floor! Exercises will give you more control and even make orgasms stronger. Bonus!
There might be a reshuffle of where hair grows on your body. You may notice more on your face but less on your scalp, legs, and pubic region. While these changes might be drastic, they are more likely to be subtle.
Medications can help with hair loss, so talk to your doctor if this becomes a problem. You can remove rogue hairs with precision using a mini razor designed for eyebrows.
Vaginal tissues thin and become inflamed in menopause, causing the vagina to reduce the flow of its natural lubricants. This is the cause of the pain and discomfort often felt during sex. Your vulva (the external area surrounding the vagina and urethra) might also feel itchy and dry.
Go exploring in the lubricant aisle. It may take some trial and error to find your favourite, but seek out ones that are fragrance-free. In the shower, opt for gentle lotions instead of soap. Your doctor can also prescribe medication to help treat vaginal dryness.
PP-DUA-AUS-0186, 09/2017. ©Pfizer 2017. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. 38-42 Wharf Road, West Ryde, NSW, 2114.
1. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health. About Menopause. Available at https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/menopause/about-menopause Accessed on 17 August 2017