The menopause – a library blog

Menopause – that time in a middle aged woman’s life when her period stops, she can no longer become pregnant naturally and hot flushes are a regular thing; right?
Not quite. There are four big misconceptions about the menopause, in this blog we’ll have a closer look at them and we’ll also show you how Hampshire Libraries can support those going through “The Change” through books
To mark ‘World Menopause Day’ on Friday 18 October, Hampshire Libraries have been working to enable open discussion on this subject, a subject which will affect everyone; either directly or indirectly in their lives. For books about the menopause, keep on reading!

The menopause is something that only happens to women between 45 and 55 years of age.

The menopause is a natural part of life, and happens when a woman’s oestrogen levels begin to decline. Whilst mostly common in women aged 45-55, this can happen at any point in a woman’s life. 1 in 100 women will see their oestrogen levels beginning to decline before age 40 – resulting in these women going through the menopause in their forties, thirties, twenties or even their teens.

At least there’s no more periods!

It’s the mantra, isn’t it? That women tell themselves when thinking about what lays ahead. Sadly, it’s not 100% true.
As mentioned, you enter the menopause when your oestrogen levels begin to decline, this doesn’t automatically mean your period stops. Many women will continue to experience bleeding or spotting for a few more years.
Some woman will experience longer and heavier periods, followed by shorter and lighter ones for up to five years before they finally cease.
Some women will experience irregular periods, periods that last for just a couple of days, while some will experience longer ones, with just a week or two in between the bleeding.
What’s true is that a woman who’s gone through the menopause will no longer have periods – but while going through it, you might continue to have periods.

Hot flushes are just that; a moment of feeling warm, then it goes away.

The name itself aids this misconception. The name makes this sound like those experiencing it will all of a sudden feel very hot, then it goes away as quickly as it came. If only it was that simple.
A hot flush will come over the woman suddenly and without little to no warning, it will raise her body temperature significantly and can cause her face and neck to turn red or break out in red blotches. A hot flush can last from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Hot flushes can also cause dizziness, heart palpitations and irregular heart beats.
For many women hot flushes are a nuisance, and can cause great discomfort, but luckily hot flushes only happen occasionally. Unless you belong to the unlucky 20% of women that will have hot flushes on a regular basis, and/or have them severe enough to disrupt their day to day life and even sleep.
Hot flushes usually last for two years, but can also last longer or shorter – 10% will experience hot flushes for up to 15 years.

But there’s not really any real health problems linked to the menopause.

The low levels of the hormone estrogen in women can cause weight gain, which in turn increases the risks of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and diabetes
As well as the increased risk of the above, the dizziness, heart irregularities and heart palpitations that can be experienced during hot flushes, women can also experience the following health problems during or after the menopause:
Lead poisoning: After menopause, women’s bones start breaking down quicker, making the bones more fragile as well as releasing the lead that’s stored in them. 30% of women have a higher blood lead level then before the menopause.
High blood pressure and atherosclerosis: Because of the bones breaking down faster and the increase in lead levels, women are more likely to have high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (this is when their arteries hardens) after they’ve gone through the menopause.
Urinary incontinence: About half of women who’ve gone through the menopause have trouble holding their urine. This is due to the low level of estrogen weakening the urethra.
Oral problems: This one might be rather surprising, but both a dry mouth and an increased risk for cavities are very common in women after the menopause.
Height loss: As women’s bones start to break down faster, they are also likely to shrink, which in turn can cause back, hip and joint pain and problems.
– Pelvic organ prolapse: The lack of estrogen after menopause thins the support structures and tissue that hold pelvic organs ( bladder, uterus, urethra, vagina, small bowel or rectum ) in place, causing one or more of them to drop out of place or fall.
– Reduced sex drive (libido) and vaginal dryness: As women’s estrogen levels drop, so can their sex drive. It is also common for women who’ve gone through the menopause to experience vaginal dryness, making sexual intercourse painful.
Memory and concentration: Some women will experience problems with their memory as they go through the menopause, and can continue afterwards. Some will also experience problems with concentrating on tasks or conversations.

As a society, we don’t talk much about the menopause, its symptoms or health problems associated with it. Even in school, menopause is wrapped up quickly at the end of learning about periods.

Your periods will continue until you reach the menopause, which usually happens when you are in your late 40s to mid-50s.

It’s easy to see why we have gained the misconceptions around the menopause, and why so many women don’t realise how long symptoms last, what the health risks and issues are and what they can expect.
In Hampshire Libraries we’re working to spread awareness of the menopause, its symptoms and how we can support those going through it.

One way we’re doing this is by running ‘Managing Your Menopause‘ courses, these are non-clinical, discussion group to learn about the menopause, speak with other women in a relaxed environment and develop your own plan to manage your menopause in the way which suits you. At the end of the course you’ll:
– Understand what’s happening to your body and hormones;
– Identify your symptoms and how they are affecting you;
– Consider treatments, lifestyle choices and coping strategies;
– Prepare to speak to others about the impact of your menopause;
– Plan how you would like to manage your own menopause.
These courses are free, but spaces have to be booked in advance. These courses are still relatively new, we’ve been able to run seven of them so far, and are looking forward to be running another four next term.

I attended the ‘Managing Your Menopause’ course and after speaking to the tutor, they suggested I speak to my GP about one of my symptoms. I made an appointment and it turned out I needed a visit to the hospital.
If it hadn’t been for this course, I might have ignored it and it could have turned into something more serious.

‘Managing Your Menopause’ feedback

If you would like to meet others going through the menopause, but can’t commit to a full course. Then the Menopause café at Farnborough Library might be the thing for you.
Meeting once a month, it’s a friendly drop in where you can meet others, have a chat and a cup of tea.

Next meeting is on Saturday 16 November, 10am – 12pm

Another way Hampshire Libraries support women going through the menopause, as well as their families and friends, is through the amazing books you can borrow.
There are books to help, support and guide you through the menopause, but also books for those who would like to support a family member or friend who’s going through it, or would just like to know more about it.
Whatever the reason, we have some amazing books that you can borrow from our libraries. Below are 14 of the books we have available, but you can find all the books we have on the menopause here!

Menopause: the one-stop guide : a practical guide to understanding and living with the menopause
by Kathy Abernethy

The menopause is a natural event, but for many women it represents a time of hormonal upheaval and uncomfortable symptoms. It can happen at any age, and the journey through it may feel a bit rocky. ‘Menopause’ explains the changes which are occurring and advises on steps one can take to make life easier during this time of change.

What we’re told not to talk about (but we’re going to anyway): women’s voices from East London to Ethiopia
by Nimko Ali

‘What We’re Told Not to Talk About (But We’re Going to Anyway)’ is an important, taboo-breaking book that shares the stories of pregnancy and periods, orgasms and the menopause, from women from all walks of life. From refugee camps in Calais to Oscar-winning actresses, to Nimko’s own story of living with FGM, each woman shares their own relationship with their vagina and its impact on their life.

Health revolution: finding happiness and health through an anti-inflammatory lifestyle: wholeness, food, research, exercise, beauty, insight 
by Maria Borelius

At the age of 52, I was experiencing menopause symptoms, back pain, fatigue, and a general feeling of melancholy about my life. I felt that everything was beginning to go downhill. But after just a few months with a new lifestyle, my life had changed. I was happier, stronger, and pain-free – what had happened? Through a series of remarkable coincidences, I realised that I had stumbled on something completely new – anti-inflammatory food – that could cure and prevent illness, and even put the brakes on ageing. That’s how my journey of research began and the contours of a whole new lifestyle emerged. This is my story, and I’m sharing it with you in the hope that you will find inspiration, healing, and strength.

The hormone fix: the natural way to balance your hormones and alleviate the symptoms of the perimenopause, the menopause and beyond
by Dr. Anna Cabeca

As women approach menopause, many start to experience the physical and emotional indignities of hormonal fluctuation: metabolic stall and weight gain, hot flashes and night sweats, insomnia, memory loss or brain fog, irritability, low libido, and painful sex. Too often, doctors say that these discomforts are to be expected, but Dr Anna Cabeca’s research and experience with thousands of her patients show that there is a fast-acting and non-pharmaceutical way to dramatically and permanently alleviate these symptoms. ‘The Hormone Fix’ introduces Dr Cabeca’s unique plan that pairs the hallmarks of ketogenic (low-carb/high fat) eating with diet and lifestyle changes that bring the body’s cellular pH to a healthy alkaline level.

Men… let’s talk menopause: what’s going on and what you can do about it
by Ruth Devlin

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A comprehensive guide to the female menopause, written for men to help them understand this often perplexing topic. It addresses all the important aspects of the menopause, including the physical, psychological, genito-urinary and long term symptoms that can occur. It gives essential information on options available to cope with those symptoms plus good advice for men (and women!) on practical lifestyle choices. Short and easy to dip in and out of, with humorous illustrations and practical tips for what you can do (and what NOT to say), this is your essential handbook for surviving the change in YOUR life.

Healthy menopause: how to best manage your symptoms and feel better than ever
by Liz Earle

Liz Earle provides a complete guide to the changes that occur during menopause and explains how problems can be managed using supplements, HRT and alternative therapies.

Feel Good Guide to Menopause
by Dr Nicola Gates

How understanding the brain-hormone connection can help women to navigate menopause. Menopause can impact a woman’s health, relationships, daily functioning, career, mood and emotions, and can profoundly impair her quality of life. Understanding the connection between hormonal changes in the female body, the brain and, indeed, the gut provides us with the fundamentals for transitioning through what can be a challenging – if not overwhelming – time for many women.

The change: women, ageing and the menopause
by Germaine Greer

Now more than ever, the individual woman has to manage her passage through menopause for herself. Germaine Greer provides a commonsense guide to a very interesting and important stage of women’s lives.

Menopause breakthroughs
by Grace Johnston

Menopause can be a challenging time not just for women but for their partners and families. For women it’s the end of their potential to be mothers and, while for some that’s a relief, for others it can be a time of considerable sadness. Self-image changes and the view in the mirror may come to differ markedly from how women still feel inside. But menopause is a natural part of ageing and one of life’s major times of transition for women. Many simply pass through it with few symptoms but for those who don’t there are many options. This book looks at both traditional Western medicine and alternative therapies, providing a wide-ranging overview of available treatments to ease the symptoms of menopause and ensure a smoother transition.

Confessions of a menopausal woman
by Andrea McLean

The menopause. There – we’ve said it. It’s a huge part of every woman’s life and yet it remains one of society’s last taboos. An emotionally complex issue that can trigger a whole host of physical and mental side effects, it’s a big deal. So why aren’t we talking about it? Talking about stuff is what women do best; we share and offload, we laugh and we bond over the ridiculous and incredible things our bodies go through. Hearing other people’s experiences is what makes our own so much more bearable – because we know that we aren’t alone.

Menopause: All you need to know in one concise manual
by Louise Newson

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Written by a menopause specialist, this will give women and their families the facts for stages and symptoms and details for safe and effective treatments for their particular needs.

The second half of your life
by Jill Shaw Ruddock

The Second Half of Your Life is a groundbreaking book which offers advice and answers to women in the second half of their life. Using the hormonal changes that occur around menopause as a springboard to transition from a woman’s reproductive years to her self-productive years, Shaw Ruddock gives positive, life-affirming guidance on how to make the second half of life, the best half. Drawing on extensive experience, research and interviews, Jill Shaw Ruddock explores what can hold women back at this important stage in their lives, and how to harness the new-found focus this stage in life brings i.e. the rest of your life.

Flash count diary: a new story about the menopause
by Darcey Steinke

Menopause hit Darcey Steinke hard. First came hot flushes. Then insomnia. Then depression. As she struggled to understand what was happening to her, she slammed up against a culture of silence and sexism. Some promoted hormone replacement therapy, others encouraged acceptance, but there was little that offered a path to understanding menopause in an engaged way. Flash Count Diary is a powerful exploration into aspects of menopause that have rarely been written about, including the changing gender landscape that reduced levels of hormones brings, the actualities of transforming desires, and the realities of prejudice against older women.

The menopause book: the complete guide – hormones, hot flashes, health, moods, sleep, sex
by Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz

Expertly separating fact from fiction in the latest “breakthrough” medical studies, it shows you what to pay attention to, and what you can ignore. Learn about the role of hormones and the latest advances in hormone therapy. The truth about hot flashes and how to deal with getting one at work. The impact of menopause on sexuality and how to manage an up-and-down libido. There are chapters on heart health (how to protect it), moods (how to ride them out), and exercise (how to stretch without strain). And finally, why this period of life can be a natural springboard to staying healthy, feeling great, and looking beautiful for the next act of your life.

Above all, be the heroine of your life,
not the victim.

Nora Ephron

If you prefer digital sources to reading books, these are all great website to learn more about the menopause, the symptoms and helpful tips and suggestions on how to deal with “The Change”:

Wellbeing of Women
Menopause doctor
British Menopause Society
Daisy Network

Remember: if you’re worried about the menopause or any of your symptoms; talk to your GP.

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