Some women are more affected by the menopause than others, yet it is not a disorder but a natural period of physical and emotional change.
First sign is disruption of the menstrual cycle, early warning that the delicate balance between ovaries, hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which ensures fertility, is beginning to change. Most women have their last period (strictly speaking, menopause means cessation of periods) around the age of 50, but for some it is as early as 40 or as late as 58. Symptoms can include hot flushes and sweating, joint pains, Headache, dryness of vagina, irritability, Depression, Sleep Problems, etc., but only one in four experiences these symptoms to a distressing or inconvenient degree. There is a correlation between oestrogen decline and osteoporosis or loss of bone density. Risk factors for this include physical inactivity, heavy smoking or drinking, poor diet, family history, low body weight, light bones, steroid treatment and long-term thyroxine treatment.
Sexual activity after the menopause is probably determined more by psychological outlook than physical change. This means it is important to create time and atmosphere for sexual expression, and to communicate your needs. Sexual interest may be heightened as testosterone levels become proportionately greater, and freedom from the possibility of pregnancy can lead to an increase in spontaneity and pleasure. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often the first-line treatment from the orthodox approach. There can be no doubt that HRT has benefited the lives of many women. It may not be suitable for everyone, though, and some experience unpleasant side effects, such as migraine, fluid retention, irritability and possibly cancer of the breast.
A cautionary thought is that it will be another 20 years before we know the full extent of side-effects from oral contraception, and HRT has been used for 20 years less than that. A new generation of non-hormonal drugs is becoming available to treat osteoporosis. A more natural method may be a cream now available to rub in, containing plant-derived progesterone, which is virtually identical to the body's own and is said to give fewer side effects. Results are not yet available from full trials of this, though.
The homeopathic view of menopausal problems is that they represent imbalances that have been present for a long time; treatment is therefore constitutional, although remedies and self-help measures given below should be tried first. In addition, an attitude accepting of this natural change, regular exercise, which tones up the circulation, and good nutrition will help combat symptoms.
Weight-bearing exercise throughout adult life can also help guard against osteoporosis as physically active people have heavier bones. Long-term therapy with HRT does not protect women over 75 from osteoporosis or heart disease, and there is an increased risk of carcinoma of the breast. It has been suggested that with HRT there is an element of psychological addiction. Hot flushes are increased if the menopause occurs under the age of 52 in women who are less well educated and in women who are underweight and who smoke.
If periods are prolonged, or if spots of blood appear between periods, or if the ‘last' period is followed, 6 months or more later, by another period, see your medical doctor; source of bleeding may be fibroids (see Uterus Problems), which are benign, or a malignant growth (see Cancer).
Specific remedies to be taken every 12 hours for up to 7 days
- Hot flushes, sweating, constricted feeling around abdomen, headache on waking, dizziness, flooding during periods, great talkativeness Lachesis 30c
- Flooding during periods, sweating, backache, sinking feeling in pit of stomach, chilliness, tearfulness, irritability Sepia 30c
- Hot flushes, piles, varicose veins, especially if woman is fair-haired, weeps easily, often feels chilly, and prefers open air to stuffy rooms Pulsatilla 30c
- Dryness and thinning of walls of vagina, constipation, stools which look blackish and burnt Bryonia 30c
- Hot flushes which come on very suddenly Amyl nit. 30c
- Hot flushes, loss of appetite, backache, feeling very taut and nervous, palpitations, symptoms worse around 3 am Kali carb. 30c
- Hot flushes, especially on face, nosebleeds, weight gain, scanty periods, cutting pains in lower abdomen Graphites 30c
- Hot flushes worse in evening and after exercise, great weariness Sulphuric ac. 30c
Self-help: Avoid tea, coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods. Guard against constipation by eating plenty of fibre-rich foods, and avoid rich, heavy foods; several light meals a day will be much better for you than one big blow out. You may also find the Liver Diet beneficial. Supplements of calcium, zinc, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B complex, and also Cod Liver oil and Evening Primrose Oil are recommended.
If you suffer from hot sweats, wear cotton underwear and light clothes, and avoid hot baths. Practise regular deep breathing and take moderate exercise.
If vulva is dry and sore, apply Calendula ointment; if vagina is dry and sore, apply Acigel (available from chemist) or douche vagina with yoghurt solution (1 small pot live natural yoghurt to 1.75 litres [3 pints] boiled cooled water). Others have reported benefit from a mixture of Slippery Elm Food and Aloe Vera applied to the vagina 2 or 3 times a week. Intercourse may be eased by using Replens available from chemists.