We are in the middle of Menopause Month – it’s World Menopause Day, today – and current coverage (there’s a lot of it about!) of this phase in a woman’s life, is mostly focused on the misery of menopause. When menopause is so often presented as unrelentingly terrible, it’s easy to overlook the upsides.
Talking about menopause means more awareness and understanding, which is undeniably a good thing – especially for younger women wondering what lies in store. The symptoms of menopause can be many (and miserable on occasion) but it does need to be pointed out that not everyone suffers in the same way, or indeed at all. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 15-20% of women have an asymptomatic menopause. Symptoms vary widely and not every woman is taking (or running out of) HRT.
Once you ‘come out the other side’ and are post-menopausal (ie, you haven’t had a period for a full year) there are a lot of Meno-Positives:
No more periods
The most obvious positive is no monthly bleeding; you’ve put the 400-odd periods of your life behind you. That means being able to wear ‘nice’ knickers, because your period’s not going to arrive unexpectedly. I recently had a menstrual blast from the past: the removal of a cervical polyp caused period-like bleeding and on my way home from hospital I tied a jacket around my waist to hide the back of my trousers. And not having to contend with blood stains means you can put your BioTex away.
You’ll save money on what used to be called ‘sanpro’: my own past tampon use, at current prices, would cost £16 a period or around £200 a year.
No more hormonal rollercoaster
Most women suffer from PMS to some degree, whether their symptoms are bloating, tender breasts, mood swings or pain. Fluctuating hormone levels that kicked in with our first period, meant that some of us felt out of sorts one week out of four.
Not to mention, the legendary mood swings of perimenopause – with its plummeting oestrogen levels. With no more ups-and-downs, say hello to a more stable existence.
No worrying about pregnancy
Although the finality of knowing that you’ll have no (more) children can be a process of adjustment, without eggs being released there can be no fertilisation. While you may no longer need contraception, it is recommended that you carry on using those condoms if you’re with a new partner. Sexually transmitted infection rates among older people are rising and many people show no symptoms. Age does not confer immunity.
As Women’s Health Concern explains: ‘Contraception should be continued until menopause: defined as two years after the last natural menstrual period in women under age 50 and until one year after the last natural menstrual period in women over age 50. If menopause cannot be confirmed, contraception should be continued until age 55.’ This is because if you happen to have a ‘frisky ovary’ that fires off a final viable egg, unexpected pregnancy (‘though rare) may occur.
Not giving a shit
Not caring about what other people think. Not being validated by your reproductive potential. Reaching a point in your life when you want to put your own needs first (you might not be able to, but that’s the intention). These are all big Meno Positives. Not giving a shit can be very liberating.
If menopause brought forgetfulness and brain fog, be reassured that it doesn’t last forever. A US study of over 2,000 women found that decline in cognitive ability is temporary. Dr Gail Greendale, who led the study, said: ‘During the menopause transition, a woman’s brain may feel a little off, a little muddy, but when the transition passes, the clouds clear and the fog lifts. Sometimes all a woman needs to know is that this too shall pass.’
Heading for happiness
The Annual Population Survey by the Office for National Statistics reveals that people aged between 50 and 54 reported the lowest rating for happiness and life satisfaction. Results, however, start to improve at ages 55-59 and continue upward to the mid-70s. Of course, there are many contributory factors here (and not all of the respondents were affected by menopause), but it ain’t no coincidence.
Lust for life
Look out for ‘post-menopausal zest’, a concept identified in the 1950s by US anthropologist Margaret Mead, who defined it as a, ‘physical and psychological surge of energy’. She proclaimed: ‘There is no more creative force in the world than a menopausal woman with zest.’
And one more future positive is that women are to be offered a menopause consultation with their GP when they reach 45. After a year-long inquiry, The Menopause All-Party Parliamentary Group report also calls for HRT to be free in England, as it already is in Scotland and Wales.
Adrienne Wyper is a health and lifestyle writer and regular TNMA contributor.