Raising awareness of menopause, what it is and why you aren’t alone

The menopause is a natural part of ageing for women.

It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age and is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

Even though it impacts all women at some point talking about it is still seen as a taboo subject and something people shy away from addressing.

This is something that Vicky O’Farrell is keen to tackle.

Picture: Pixabay

Vicky was 49 when she went through the menopause but noticed the start of the peri-menopause around the age of 40.

She said: “I think it is a taboo subject because people don’t understand it. When you understand it, you can make sense of it and you can support others.”

To raise awareness of health and menopause, the World Health Organisation and the International Menopause Society have designated October as World Menopause Month and October 18 is World Menopause Day.

Vicky, from Haywards Heath, said: “We need to have a menopause awareness full stop.

Vicky O'Farrell

“The fact that we now have a day / month gives us a reason to talk about it.

“Whether we like it or not, we will ALL be affected by menopause, as females both physically and emotionally and as men feeling the emotional effects from partners, family, (sister, mother, aunt) work colleagues, the more we talk about it, the more we are aware of these symptoms, the more we normalise it, the better equipped we are to manage menopause.”

In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.

During the menopause a woman’s oestrogen levels decline.

Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.

On the NHS website it says that most women will experience menopausal symptoms.

Some of these can be quite severe and have a significant impact on women’s everyday activities.

Common symptoms include: hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, difficulty sleeping, low mood or anxiety, reduced sex drive (libido), and problems with memory and concentration

Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before someone’s periods stop and last around four years after the last period, although some women experience them for much longer.

Vicky, 49, explained how going through menopause impacted her.

She said: “It was horrendous.

“I had a my worst year last year, I term it the tsunami.

“All the emotions, all the symptoms, all the feelings and all at once.

“I hit a very low, dark stop where I would just cry myself to sleep every night, not wanting to wake up in the morning, because I was so miserable and I couldn’t see a way out.

“I felt so alone, so useless, so tired and so exhausted.”

There are a number of treatments your GP can and they may suggest lifestyle changes if you have severe menopausal symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life.

Treatments include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – tablets, skin patches, gels and implants that relieve menopausal symptoms by replacing oestrogen. Vaginal oestrogen creams, lubricants or moisturisers for vaginal dryness, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a type of talking therapy that can help with low mood and anxiety.

Other things you can do include eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly – maintaining a healthy weight and staying fit and strong can improve some menopausal symptoms.

There are many misconceptions when it comes to the menopause, which is something else Vicky wants to address.

She said: “The misconceptions are that it’s an old age thing, seriously I’m 49 and I am not old.

“That HRT gives you breast cancer. That is just all hot flushes and mood swings. That women get depressed , hormonal depression is way different to depression and needs to be treated differently.”

It is also important for women to talk to their female family members.

Vicky said: “It is important for two reasons. One to understand what is is and two because we often follow the female line in terms of age and symptoms.”

Vicky has been a menopause ambassador for Simply Hormones for five years.

“After I was introduced to Kathryn Colas, we met and realised we had so much synergy running our own business and she watched me present my training programmes and asked if I would like to become a menopause ambassador and the rest is history.”

Kathryn and Vicky also run workshops to help women going through the menopause.

Vicky said: “I was introduced to Kathryn about six years ago because I was struggling to find the support.

“Kathryn set the business up over ten years ago because of her journey through menopause hell. We are not doctors or medical practitioners but every ambassador has had one hell of journey with menopause so we talk openly and frankly about the physical and emotional impact of menopause. The impact to business, the impact of ignorance and we are there to give guidance not medical advice but to open the conversations for organisations to have with their employees and give support to their workforce - both female and male.”

In terms of what need to change when it comes to menopause Vicky said: “Affordable and available specialists so every women has the chance to get the support she needs. Teach it in schools, train it in the workplace, make a menopause policy compulsory for every employer.

“Don’t be alone going through menopause - open up and talk about it, there are groups on social media and so much support. PLUS its only a stage in your life - its not forever, there IS LIFE on the other side !!!!!!

Vicky also has her own business Motivational Voice, which helps people achieve their potential, through coaching, training and motivational speaking.

For Vicky’s website, visit motivationalvoice.uk/