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Menopause: The Basics

Lauren Chiren’s personal story and tips for the rest of us

I left my exec role leading regulatory and compliance change programmes in my early 40s thinking I had early-onset dementia. Imagine my surprise when my doctor told me I had 'just' been through early menopause?

This led me to reinvent my definition of career success and immediately began educating myself on all things related to women's hormones and specifically on menopause transition.

I was curious, if this happened to me - sleeplessness, nights sweats, lack of recall & retention, palpitations all leading to low mood, low self-esteem and low confidence - who else was this happening for?

I have run a number of surveys and conducted extensive research over the last seven years and several stats keep on reappearing:

I now support businesses to understand why being menopause supportive is business savvy & provide programmes for women to boost their vitality, influence and personal power.

What it is, when it happens and top tips to ease your transition

81.7% of women in business surveyed in 2020, neither knew what menopause truly was nor how it was going to impact them.

This must change!

So what is menopause?

Menopause is classed as the 12 month anniversary of your last monthly cycle. Thereafter, you are post-menopausal. 

It is important to note that every woman's journey through menopause is unique. No two women experience it the same. Before we become menopausal, our hormone levels naturally begin to decline, specifically oestrogen and progesterone, which are play key functions in our natural monthly cycle and support our fertility. This is called the perimenopause phase. Some women may begin to experience symptoms during this time, for example, sleeplessness, anxiety, itchy skin, mood swings and sore joints.

Why do we experience these symptoms? 

To understand this, it is important to understand the hormones - chemical messengers that tell our body tissues how to behave - have many different functions. 

Oestrogen & Progesterone

During the first half of a woman's monthly cycle, oestrogen levels gradually increase and after ovulation, it declines. When we ovulate, progesterone helps thicken the lining of the womb to support a pregnancy. Should we not become pregnant, then progesterone levels fall and trigger our monthly bleed.

Our hormones play many other roles.

For example, regulating our temperature, supporting our cognitive functions, bone, liver and heart health and skin elasticity, to name a few.

When our hormone levels decline during peri to post-menopause, all these body functions can be impacted, leading to a variety of symptoms, if we don't what is going on and take the right steps to look after ourselves. 

When does menopause happen?

Usually, women become perimenopausal anywhere from their late 30's to their early 50's. This phase may last 3 - 7 years.

On average, women will become menopausal around age 45 - 55, average age 51. 1 in 10 women will become menopausal aged 40 - 44 and 1 in a 100, before 40.

Thereafter, women are postmenopausal.

Other reasons a woman may become menopausal are due to certain surgeries e.g. oophorectomy or hysterectomy or particular medical treatments e.g. chemotherapy or radiotherapy

Ways to ease your transition

There is no one right answer to managing your menopause transition. You may wish to speak to your doctor about medication for example hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or make simple lifestyle changes.

I highly recommend that as a minimum you:

Most of all, know you are not alone.

Menopause is a right of passage. As a step towards the most vital years of our life, when we have the most to give back by sharing our wisdom, skills and experience.

With the right care and attitude, your post-menopausal years can be simply the best!

Lauren Chiren

Executive Women's Mental Health | UK | Women of a Certain Stage

April 2021