Dr Olúṣẹ̀yẹ Àríkàwé rounds off our special three-part series on the menopause
Menopause is inevitable; every woman will have a decline in their hormones over time, and with this comes disruption to her physical and psychological wellbeing.
For most women, the decline in female hormones will occur as a gradual event, usually around the age of 51 years; however, this is not the case for everyone.
Some women will be ‘forced’ into menopause as a result of medical treatments for certain cancers or through the surgical removal of ovaries. Also, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments can affect ovarian function and cause induced menopause. This is known as surgical or Iatrogenic menopause.
Other women will go through menopause prematurely before the age of 40; this happens naturally in a small proportion of women, and the cause is often unknown. Most will have a strong family history of first-degree female relatives going through early menopause.
Going through menopause prematurely can be quite distressing, and seeking specialist opinion sooner rather than later can be beneficial in helping to control the physical and psychological effects.
No matter the age at which menopause happened or how it happened, there is help available for any challenges that are being faced.
Preparing for this season of change before it comes can provide an enhanced menopause experience, but it is never too late to take action. The first two articles in this series explained in detail how to prepare physically, psychologically and spiritually for menopause, but here are some top tips on how to embrace this season.
Having an awareness of what to expect during menopause sets a good tone for a positive experience. So many women are unsure if their symptoms are caused by menopause (see November ’s article on recognising the symptoms). Sadly, some women have been let down by their healthcare professionals, who have misdiagnosed them.
Seek help early
Find a qualified menopause specialist who will make the correct diagnosis and who can offer an appropriate treatment option after carefully evaluating the risks and benefits of taking hormone replacements.
Spotlight on HRT
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an effective treatment for the relief of menopausal symptoms and so, for most women, the benefits of taking HRT outweigh the risks.
HRT is available as tablets, patches, gels, sprays, implants or vaginally as creams, rings or tablets. Some types of HRT are similar to the hormones produced by the body.
Most women are concerned about the risks of breast cancer and HRT. This risk is far lower than most people realise. Women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who take HRT. Your menopause specialist will be able to evaluate your risk and offer you the appropriate HRT.
Women who went through menopause at a very early age (at less than 40 years old) will usually be offered HRT to replace the hormones until their natural age of menopause. Replacing these hormones has many significant health benefits, including preventing cardiovascular diseases and protecting the bones against fractures.
Another treatment option is herbal supplements for women who cannot or do not want to take HRT. It is advisable to inform your healthcare professional before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you are already on other regular medications, because many herbal remedies can react significantly with prescribed medications. That said, some women have found that herbal treatments work well for them.
Own it As women, we do not need to feel embarrassed by menopause. When we start to change the conversations around this subject and openly discuss our challenges, the men around us will be educated and learn how to better support the women in their lives.
Accept that this is a natural progression; even if you are having a bad time with it now, rest assured that it will improve over time and, with appropriate support and the right tools, you can embrace this season of change gracefully.
Physical wellbeing during menopause
Paying close attention to health is paramount for every woman from the age of 40. One of the significant physical effects of hormonal changes is weight gain, and so there is no better time to address the issues of weight and diet than during perimenopause and menopause.
The effects of weight gain during menopause are enormous. Apart from poor self-image and feeling the loss of youthfulness, there are other significant risks such as breast cancer, heart diseases and osteoarthritis (wear and tear of the joints). If weight gain occurs, there are lots of things that can be done to help, such as putting in place a healthy diet and exercise regimes – those tailored towards postmenopausal women are especially useful (see the useful websites below.)
A little pampering during this season is highly recommended. This is when women should be intentional about self-care, making sure they take regular ‘me time’ in whatever form suits them. Practising this will help to improve mental health and general physical wellbeing during menopause.
Spiritual wellbeing during menopause
In his infinite mercies, God has made provision for us ahead of when we lose our female hormones. There are many promises in the Bible that will strengthen and encourage us as we go through this season. It is, therefore, a good idea to spend more time meditating on God’s promises and declaring them over our lives. As we align our thoughts to God’s words, we will begin to see our lives following the direction of those thoughts.
Engaging in spiritual practices, such as personal or group retreats, will help to strengthen and re-energise spirit, soul and body too. We all need to find what works best for us in order to maintain a positive attitude.
It’s also a time to prioritise and focus on the important things in life and learn that we can say no to other demands without feeling guilty. We need to be deliberate about avoiding triggers for stress.
What does the Bible say about menopause?
As a woman nearing menopause myself, I am already putting things in place to make the experience more pleasant. As I mentioned previously, I love his promise in Isaiah 46:4 that: “Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.”
In my study of God’s word, I have discovered promises in the Bible that speak specifically to symptoms menopausal women can experience. For example, it is a medical fact that women going through menopause will be at higher risk of broken bones, but God’s promise in Isaiah 58:11 says: “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought and strengthen your bones. You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail” (NKJV).
It’s so reassuring to know that God has us women in his mind, and cares for us at every stage of our lives.
As I finish this series, I want to reiterate that, as God’s beloved, we truly can embrace this unique season. Armed with the appropriate information that help is available in the form of medical management, we can also receive strength spiritually to go through menopause with grace.
Find out more on Dr Olúṣẹ̀yẹ Àríkàwé’s here.
- Christian-run Fit2b Studio provides workouts online
- Healthy living and u - an online platform that encourages and supports, providing workout and nutritional ideas
- National Health Service’s overview of the menopause
- Women’s Health Concern - the patient arm of the British Menopause Society that provides advice and information about women’s gynaecological and sexual health, wellbeing and lifestyle concerns
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Dr Olúṣẹ̀yẹ Àríkàwé will be answering your questions in her brand-new column. Please email email@example.com with any questions, however big or small, that you’ve always wanted to know the answer to. (Let us know if you would like your question to be shared anonymously.)