Despite being an inevitability for most women over a certain age, the menopause is little understood by many people. Thanks to a cultural squeamishness surrounding women’s reproductive health, a number of misconceptions have arisen surrounding this very natural sign of ageing. To help you get to grips with the facts about the menopause and to know what to expect, we’ve busted a few unhelpful myths:
Myth #1: The menopause starts at 50
The age a woman starts to experience symptoms associated with the menopause can vary dramatically. Most will start to notice symptoms when they are between 45 and 55, with the average age for UK women sitting at around 51. However, early menopause (which starts under the age of 40) happens to around 1% of women in the UK, so it is important that a woman visits a GP if her periods stop unexpectedly or start to become irregular.
Myth #2: Hot flushes are the only symptom of menopause
Whilst hot flushes are a very common (and uncomfortable) symptom of the menopause, there are a number of other symptoms associated with the process. These can include issues such as bloating, joint pain, fatigue, bladder weakness, and recurrent urinary tract infections. They can also include non-physical symptoms such as low mood and irritability. Fortunately, there are a number of treatments available designed to manage these symptoms.
Myth #3: The menopause happens overnight
Most women experience menopausal symptoms for a number of years. The average for UK women is around four years from their final period.
Myth #4: The menopause will ruin your sex life
Whilst some women do experience a reduction in libido during the menopause thanks to fluctuating hormones and physical issues like vaginal dryness, others actually find that their libido increases. Indeed, rising levels of testosterone can reinvigorate some women’s sex lives during the menopause.
Myth #5: HRT should only be used as a last resort
Hormone replacement therapy (commonly known as HRT) can effectively relieve symptoms of the menopause and has improved considerably since it was first introduced. Indeed, doctors are now able to describe a number of different types of HRT that have few side effects and can change a woman’s life for the better.