Despite it being a natural stage of life for half the population, most Australians don’t know what menopause is or how to recognise the symptoms, new research has revealed.
Flordis Femular, an integrative healthcare brand that produces medication that helps relieve menopause symptoms, has commissioned new research looking into the silent nature of menopause.
Its findings revealed that four out of five Australians surveyed, including both men and women, cannot correctly define what menopause is.
Findings revealed that four out of five Australians surveyed, including both men and women, cannot correctly define what menopause is.
Today is World Menopause Day, a day that raises awareness of menopause and the support options available for improving health and wellbeing. This year’s theme is bone health.
Natasha Andreadis, a gynaecologist and fertility specialist, said menopause is an important time in a woman’s life.
“Menopause is an important and freeing stage for many women,” she told Hope 103.2.
“Some women find great joy in the fact that their periods are finally over and can have a greater sense of freedom, whereas for others, there can be a sense of loss as their reproductive years have come to an end.”
However, regardless of how a woman is feeling, she should never downplay this time in their life, Ms Andreadis said.
“Your body is going through so many different hormonal and physical changes that are preparing you for this next season of your life,” she said.
“Learning to embrace this and share your journey with others as you go through it are paramount.”
“Menopause is an important and freeing stage for many women,” – Natasha Andreadis, a gynaecologist and fertility specialist
Perimenopause vs menopause
Almost half of those surveyed did not know the difference between perimenopause – the stage before menopause – and menopause.
Although menopause typically starts around the age of 51, symptoms can come long before that.
“Perimenopause is the years leading up to menopause – with menopause officially occurring when a woman has not had her period for over a year,” Ms Andreadis said.
“Perimenopause can last months, years or even a decade, but it’s important to make sure that you are always tracking your cycle and are aware of the changes in your body, so you know what stage of menopause you are at.
“As they enter their 40s, I always encourage women to be on the lookout for symptoms of perimenopause such as lethargy and tiredness or changes in mood.”
In another survey conducted by Flordis Femular, with responses from 3000 Australian women of menopausal age, findings revealed that over half of those surveyed had already experienced menopause symptoms by the time they were between the ages of 40 and 45.
Ms Andreadis said women should begin by looking at their cycle.
“The most common symptom of menopause that women should be on the lookout for is a change or irregularity in their menstrual cycle,” she said.
“Some women can go months without their period; however, it is important to note that until you’ve not had a period for more than a year, you are technically still perimenopausal.”
Outside of this, women may also notice hot flushes or night sweats, and some women report sleeplessness, changes in mood, joint pain and overall fatigue.
“As they enter their 40s, I always encourage women to be on the lookout for symptoms of perimenopause,” – Natasha Andreadis, a gynaecologist and fertility specialist
Natural stage of life
Menopause is a “completely natural stage” in a woman’s life, but it can have an impact on their wellbeing and day-to-day life, Ms Andreadis said.
“Menopause can impact women differently and manifest in different aspects of their lives,” she said.
“Some women have trouble exercising or doing laborious activities due to fatigue, while others struggle with their social life due to low mood or have to adjust themselves at work to accommodate hot flushes.
“The important thing to note is that no woman should have to suffer in silence or isolation; it’s not like 30 years ago where our mothers would never dare talk about it.”
However, according to the majority of survey respondents, 80 per cent, from Flordis Femular’s survey of the general population, said they feel that menopause is a taboo subject that can’t be discussed in day-to-day life.
Out of those surveyed, younger Australians between the ages of 18 and 34 were the least likely to be empathetic towards women in menopause.
More than one in four said they would be confused or uncomfortable if a woman told them she was going through menopause.
Ms Andreadis believes this is contributing to the lack of understanding surrounding it.
“Menopause, in particular, is something that is seen as inappropriate to discuss in a family, work, or social setting,” she said.
“As a result, many women are left in the dark, not knowing what to expect when menopause comes along.”
“The important thing to note is that no woman should have to suffer in silence or isolation; it’s not like 30 years ago…” – Natasha Andreadis, a gynaecologist and fertility specialist
Removing the stigma
To remove this stigma, she believes there needs to be a collaborative effort from both women and the wider general public.
“For women, they need to ensure they are talking about their menopause symptoms with a knowledgeable healthcare professional – it’s a natural stage of life, so women should feel comfortable discussing with friends and family,” Ms Andreadis said.
“For the wider general public, I’d say the biggest challenge is the work environment, which is not designed with menopausal women in mind.”
“Overall, the more comfortable we are integrating menopause into our daily discussions, the more we can continue to break the stigma,” – Natasha Andreadis, a gynaecologist and fertility specialist
Workplaces should ensure they provide the best environment for women to feel comfortable, according to Ms Andreadis.
This could include relaxing the dress code, providing more time for health appointments or even being conscious of the temperature in the room because heaters can bring on hot flushes.
“Overall, the more comfortable we are integrating menopause into our daily discussions, the more we can continue to break the stigma,” Ms Andreadis said.
Feature image: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez