By Amy Hunt
The menopause is a completely normal transition for women, but that doesn't mean that it comes without challenges.
The life stage brings with it plenty of obvious physical symptoms, due to a depletion of oestrogen; no more periods, hot flushes, a reduced libido, and weight gain to name but a few. So it's no wonder that it can also end up having an impact on our mental health.
As well as the effects of the physical symptoms, the menopause can leave many women battling emotional symptoms too, including mood swings and insomnia, which can have a knock-on effect on our wellbeing.
It's no surprise then that menopause help is necessary to help us deal with all the changes going on.
And while it may feel like you're alone in your struggles, there is actually plenty of menopause help and menopause support out there - and lots of different ways of coping with menopause.
Coping with menopause: menopause help
We're all aware that the menopause can be a difficult time, but there's no doubt that talking about it can help.
As with any problem, getting it out in the open is often the first step in making thing feel more managable.
Dr Rebecca Lewis, from menopause and wellbeing centre Newson Health, confessed that talking about the menopause can be feel awkward, but it's vital for all sorts of reason.
"Some women are intensely private - after all the symptoms are often very personal -vaginal dryness and irritation, uncomfortable sex, low libido etc," she said.
But, Rebecca explained, "Talking to other women going through the same thing is incredibly helpful as often women feel isolated and ’cut off‘ emotionally from their family and peer group due to their symptoms. Talking to other women helps them realise they are not alone in their experience, and will help raise awareness of how severe symptoms can be in some cases.
"Also, talking with other women will help them understand the symptoms better and how to get effective treatment. Talking empowers women and helps them cope knowing that several other women they know are going through the same thing."
So where can you speak to someone, if you don't feel comfortable sharing with your loved ones?
If you feel slightly shy talking about your experiences with strangers face-to-face, a menopause forum might be for you. Speaking to people online, with a degree of anonymity, can help you air your menopause greivances from the comfort of your own home.
Dr Rebecca recommends chatting online, but warns that it's sensible to question any information and medical advice you might find in chatrooms or similar.
She said, "Menopause chat rooms are very varied with a lot of misinformation so it depends."
So which ones do you need to know about?
According to her, "A good website is menopausedoctor.co.uk, which is full of evidence based non biased information."
Menopause Matters forum
The Menopause Matters forums is one of the most well-known, online groups for discussing all things menopause. With members posting every day, there's not much that isn't spoken about on here - including everything from menopausal sex, the ups and downs of HRT, and post-menopausal bleeding.
There are hundreds of users on the Menopause Matters forum, so you're bound to find someone to relate to, or someone who is facing a similar issue as you. Simply sign up with your email and get scrolling...
Other menopause forums uk:
Menopause Chit Chat is another chat-filled forum where members open up about a whole range of topics. One of their most popular threads surrounds discussion about menopause symptoms, so users can open up about what they've gone through and how it compares to others.
These conversations can be particularly useful if you're finding yourself having different symptoms to that of your friends - or maybe, if your pals haven't gone through the menopause yet.
Within this menopause forum, you can start your own topic of discussion too, for anything that's particularly niggling at you.
For some people the menopause doesn't arrive when you might expect, in your late 40s or early 50s. For many women, early menopause can happen for a variety of reasons. Officially termed premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), it typically refers to menopause that comes far earlier than normal - for some women, that could be as early as your teens, 20s, or 30s, although others have it happen in their early 40s.
During early menopause, your ovaries stop producing eggs years before they should - meaning falling pregnant can be very difficult. During POI, your hormone production is also affected, which can have an effect on your well-being.
The diagnosis can be life-changing - which is where the support of the Daisy Network comes in.
The Daisy Network was set up to help support women - and their loved ones - who are going through early menopause. The charity uses an innovate scheme of 'networkers' - members of the organisation who are there to act as contacts - for other members to talk to, based on their own experiences.
As well as that, many members of the Daisy Network also arrange local networking, menopause support groups for real-life meets up, so you can offload face-to-face if you want.
Membership costs £20 for a year, and the money is used to keep supporting women across the UK who may be struggling.
Menopause support group
British Menopause Society
Although you don't have the opportunity to speak to other women here, on the Women's Health Concern website, the patient arm of the British Menopause Society, you can find everything you need to help answer your menopause questions.
Full of verified and impartial advice, the service is there to offer support and education to women about the menopause. There are a range of different resources on there, such as the opportunity for telephone calls with specialist nurses, factsheets, detailed and informative email newsletters, and even meetings, seminars and workshops on all kinds of topics.
Many of the helpful guides are available to download on their website here for free, but you'll have to pay for some of the other servies; £20 for 10 minutes of telephone advice, and a minimum £10 donation for email help.
There's also a super-handy function that can help you find a 'menopause specialist' in your area. Simply type in your location, and the radius within which you'd want the specialist to be, and it'll take you to another web page containing the name and location of the specialist, if you want to get in touch. They are specific BMS specialists, so you can rest safe in the knowledge that they're reliable.
Perhaps one of the best and most unique objectives out there for menopause support is the Menopause Cafe. Their aim is, essentially, what it says on the tin. At the Menopause Cafe, groups of people meet up for a coffee, where they're then free to discuss any aspect of the menopause that they like.
And the Cafe's, which take place around the country on various dates across the year, are welcome to everyone; even people who aren't going through it. The aim is to open up a conversation to help those in the throes of the menopause, and to help their loved ones understand it better, to help give support.
So for any husbands, children, colleagues, or friends hoping to gain a better understanding, this may be the perfect place.
Their mission statement is simply: "to increase awareness of the impact of the menopause on those experiencing it, their friends, colleagues and families, so that we can make conscious choices about this third stage of life." - which we reckon is a great way to approach an often taboo subject.
Visit the website's event calendar HERE to see when the next Menopause Cafe is being held near you.
But most importantly, if you're finding the menopause difficult to cope with, visit your GP.
Talking about it is vital, but medical help from your doctor can help to alleviate some of the pressures and symptoms of the life stage.
Many menopausal women favour HRT, but there are a range of treatment options, as well as more holistic options which can offer some relief.
The most important thing to remember is that you're never alone - and there's always someone out there who can help with what you're going through.
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