Women’s health issues, especially menopause, have gained significant attention recently, moving from a once-neglected topic to lively discussion on social media, prime time TV and even in Parliament. High profile women from all walks of life are raising awareness of the need to address the challenges women face at menopause.

This is all welcome news – I’ve seen an enormous shift in how menopause is perceived and discussed in the past two decades of working in natural health. When I began my practice just over 20 years ago, menopause was hardly taught about or talked about. Women approaching their 40s knew there was change ahead but it was viewed as an obscure and perhaps ominous phase of life.

Not being majorly keen on labels I actually had to look up Generation X – and it turns out it’s women born between 1965 and 1980 ie. women now in their 40s to late 50s who are entering or going through menopause – and it’s partly because of this generation that perceptions of menopause have shifted so dramatically.

It’s no longer a taboo subject: instead, it’s accepted as a natural part of a woman’s life. It’s still one that’s often at odds with our current way of working and living, so there is plenty that needs addressing but, nevertheless, we are talking!

As we enter Menopause Awareness Week I’m genuinely excited by more conversation around menopause, but also about aging in general. Increasingly women are speaking up and challenging societal norms, and rightly so, given that women are living an average of 30 years beyond menopause – we are the generation who won’t do that quietly!

Speaking about menopause, sharing struggles and successes, empowers more women to take control of their health by seeking information about menopause earlier in life and being prepared can significantly ease transition through hormonal change.

Understanding our bodies and our menstrual cycles is a crucial starting point and I have a series of Mini Meno Workshops where I discuss the challenges posed by each stage of menopause and the natural health solutions avaliable.

The Three Stages of Menopause

Menopause is associated with more than 34 symptoms, ranging from physical discomfort to emotional struggles. Some symptoms, such as tinnitus, breathing problems and recurrent viral infections, are often overlooked as menopause symptoms but can be part of the package and cause significant stress.

Perimenopause is a relatively new term and typically begins several years before menopause, with some women experiencing hormonal changes as early as their late 30s, Irregular periods, mood changes, poor blood sugar levels, weight gain and hair loss are common. Change can be sudden, perhaps precipitated by intense stress or loss, intense or it can be gradual.

Knowing your body’s natural rhythm and recognizing these early signs is instrumental in managing this stage. Making changes to diet and lifestyle and adding in some natural therapies can really help regain control and get back in balance.

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True Menopause is what I call the last one to two years of perimenopause when oestrogen levels drop significantly and we are into the eye of the storm. This is when the most profound changes occur. The average age for periods actual stopping is 51 and symptoms can include hot flushes, brain fog, heavy bleeds, headaches, insomnia.

It’s at this stage that many women will wonder about HRT though, from my perspective, there are many natural solutions from herbs to homeopathy and flower essences via superfood cleanses and restorative yoga that can be used instead of HRT or to help manage symptoms that the HRT isn’t solving.

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Post Menopause needs to be talked about since we are living an average of 30 years beyond menopause and in fact a third of a women’s working life is beyond menopause. Statistics suggest that by 2025, over 1 billion women worldwide will be post-menopausal.

Physically we need to learn to look after the 3B’s: bones, bladders, and brains to see us into a strong and vibrant later life.

But we also need to start acknowledging the wisdom and gifts that can women have to offer during this stage of life. Many women choose to give back, becoming mentors or setting up support in education or nature conservation.

I believe the gift of this time after our fertile years can be rich and rewarding and I’ve started to engage with the concept of Elderhood and what that might mean to me and my generation.

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I see Menopause Awareness week as a time for us to speak up, share our stories, celebrate our collective wisdom and strengths and to hold each other in sisterhood so a big welcome whether you are just starting on this journey or out the other side and please aske if you’re seeking support.

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