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Menopause is a completely normal and natural state of life to reach, but we don't like to talk about it. That's probably because women are so often tarred with the 'crazy hormone lady' brush. You've probably heard someone say 'don't mind her, she's on the blob', 'Or jeez, early menopause?' Our hormones often get the blame for our actions, which makes many women reluctant to discuss the changes they are experiencing for fear of being branded irrational and out of control.
It's commonly believed that menopause affects women in their 50s, but actually the symptoms can kick in much earlier. You don't just get the menopause on your 50th as some sort of crap gift. The average age is 52, but you can be in your 30s or 60s when it appears. Every woman is different.
You are classed as menopausal once you have gone a full year without having a period. Other signs of impending menopause can include:
If you have these symptoms but still have periods you might be in the perimenopause - the stage that occurs directly before menopause. Perimenopause can last a few months or even years. It's the time when you ought to start looking into potential treatments to alleviate your symptoms.
You'll begin with hot flushes
Some women do, but others get different symptoms first, perhaps anxiety, fatigue, irritability, hair loss or cravings as the oestrogen disappears from your system.
Your sex drive will disappear
Not necessarily. Some vaginal dryness may cause a problem but that is easily fixed with lubricant. Conversely, you may find your sex drive is higher as your hormones go berserk.
You'll go crazy
This is based on the assumption that menopausal women are bad-tempered, hysterical (whatever that means) and hate all men. A difficult menopause can make you feel a bit volatile, but treatment can help, and it won't last forever.
You will be unattractive to men
No one will know about your stage of life unless you choose to tell them, and your outward appearance won't give off obvious signals!
The best thing you can do is go to your doctor for advice and treatment. It might be a natural process, but you don't have to suffer the symptoms on your own. HRT is a wonderful thing if you are in need.
You can also take a holistic approach. Dietary changes, exercise, relaxation therapies and supplements may work for you. Keeping a close eye on your body for triggers, such as caffeine causing hot flushes, is important too.
Talk about it. Try an online forum if you can't confide in anyone around you. Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing. Sharing and comparing experiences is a great form of therapy.
Remember every woman goes through the menopause; you are part of one of the largest clubs on Earth!