It’s estimated that a third of UK women are currently perimenopausal or menopausal. That’s around 13 million people going through this change at any one time, including individuals who are transgender, non-binary and gender fluid.
Despite it being a shared experience for so many, it has remained a stubbornly taboo topic. With both mental and physical symptoms, menopause can be an uncomfortable – and sometimes debilitating – period. This World Menopause Awareness month, we want to talk about menopause openly and keep this important conversation going.
What is menopause?
Menopause is a time in a menstruating person’s life when periods come to an end. The menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age in the UK being 51. For some people, it can take a few months or years for their periods to stop, whereas for others they stop immediately.
Although 45-55 is the most common age to go through menopause, around one in 100 women experience the menopause before the age of 40. This is known as early menopause. It can happen naturally or be a side effect of some treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
You may have also heard the term perimenopause, which literally means “around menopause”. It’s been defined in various ways, but experts agree this stage begins with irregular periods and ends a year after the last menstrual cycle.
Women and menstruating people can start perimenopause at different ages. Some notice changes in their 40s, whereas some experience menstrual irregularity as early as their mid 30s. During this time, the level of estrogen (the main female hormone) rises and falls causing menstrual cycles to occur at irregular times and change in length. Once someone has gone through 12 months without a period, they have officially reached menopause and perimenopause is over.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
When someone says menopause, hot flushes are often mentioned in the same sentence. Although it’s the most well known symptom, those who are perimenopausal and menopausal experience a variety of symptoms. Some of these are subtle, and others are more obvious.
Symptoms of perimenopause and menopause overlap, but some real tell-tale signs of perimenopause include: period changes, fatigue, low mood, memory loss as well as skin and hair changes. Joint and muscle aches along with brain fog and poor concentration are also common.
For women and menstruating people going through menopause, common symptoms include:
- Hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest. This can make your skin red and sweaty
- Night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night time
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in mood, such as low mood or anxiety
- Reduced sex drive
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Joint stiffness and muscle aches
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
What is the treatment for menopause?
The most common and traditional treatment for menopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT involves replacing the hormones that are missing. As most symptoms are caused by low oestrogen levels, it’s the most important hormone to replace.
HRT is currently one of the most effective treatments to relieve perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, and is taken in the form of either a tablet, skin patch or gel. People on HRT find symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, brain fog, joint pains and vaginal dryness are alleviated.
Although evidence says that the risks of HRT are outweighed by the benefits, it is important to be aware that for some people some types of HRT can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer and blood clots. This is why it’s super important to discuss any risk factors you may have with your doctor before committing to the treatment.
How can massage help with menopause?
Massage is a great complementary therapy for menopause alongside conventional medical interventions.
As stress generally intensifies during this period causing menopausal symptoms to heighten, massage therapy can really help. A study of 90 women at a menopausal clinic by Darsareh et al found that both normal massage and aromatherapy massage were effective in reducing menopausal symptoms.
What’s the best massage for menopause?
For menopausal people experiencing heightened stress, Urban’s de-stress massage is ideal. Expect a grounding, full body treatment where relaxing essential oils are used. Stress-melting techniques trigger the body’s relaxation response and gently release any tension.
For some women and menstruating people going through menopause, they find they are especially sensitive to touch. For this we recommend reflexology, an extremely calming treatment that uses acupressure on the feet and lower legs. It helps to stimulate the nervous system which in turn aids in reducing stress, anxiety and tension, which as we know are all common symptoms of menopause.
Insomnia is another common symptom of the menopause which can have knock on effects on how we behave during the day. Oliveira et al focused on how massage can help with postmenopusal insomnia. The study found participants who had regular massages saw a significant improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression. The study also showed that all of the participants fell asleep more quickly and presented an improvement in their quality of sleep after the massages. Urban’s Sleep massage is a dreamy experience, where essential oils are gently massaged onto the body promoting sleep. The relaxing atmosphere will also help to boost overall wellbeing during this stressful time.
How can facials help with menopausal skin?
Skin changes are common during perimenopause and menopause, with breakouts, dryness, oiliness and redness and rosacea all appearing seemingly out of nowhere.
Come menopause, skin tends to change again. Some may find their skin will get quite dry and become thinner. This is due to collagen levels decreasing and lack of estrogen. The slowdown of cell turnover also exacerbates dryness too.
To deal with the changes in skin, facials are a fantastic option. Besides promoting relaxation, a facial helps to improve skin tone, texture and appearance. Our 60-minute Dermalogica facial is a great treatment if you’re looking for a custom experience with premium products. Your Demalogica-trained therapist will take the time to select the techniques and products that’ll best fit your skin needs. So whether it’s dryness, increased hyperpigmentation or acne, you’re covered! As with all our Urban treatments, the facial will take place in the comfort of your own home, so you will feel completely relaxed.
It’s important to us at Urban that we openly discuss menopause. We’re doing some super exciting things this Menopause Awareness Month, including two Instagram live sessions with Natasha Lacy and Dr Shahzadi Harper. Natasha is a make up artist and stylist who openly hosts informative discussions about all things menopause on her weekly ‘Unmute Menopause’ Instagram lives. Dr Harper is a menopause and wellbeing doctor specialising in optimising women’s health. She runs The Harper Clinic on Harley Street and is co-author of The Perimenopause Solution. Join us on Instagram at 12pm on Monday 18th October and 12pm on Wednesday 27th November to chat about a topic that just isn’t talked about enough.