Is my mum mad or menopausal? 7 Things to know about your mum's menopause!
This Mother’s Day we thought we’d offer the offspring of women in their mid-40s to mid 50s, the gift of knowledge which may, (or may not!), help you to understand what your mum may be going through. Read on, as we debunk your mum’s menopause!
You might not want to think about your mum’s reproductive ability but trust us, it’ll help you both, if you step back to consider it for a moment. Until recently, your mum’s body was coursing with reproductive hormones keeping her mind and body in rude health. The hormone oestrogen has been the major player in her fertility but now in menopause the well is running dry and her body is having to re-adjust. Many women find their mind and body are caught in the maelstrom of the effects of oestrogen’s retirement, leaving them and those nearest and dearest to them, confused.
Menopause can be plain sailing, but for 3 in 4 women, it’s not. There are at least 34 symptoms of menopause and your mum may have one or more of them. Check out our Symptoms section for a full list of incredible symptoms but in the meantime, we’ve highlighted some things you may find useful.
Is the phase leading up to menopause. This can start several years before menopause causing symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings and insomnia but many women don't make the link with their hormones. How bubbly would you feel if you were sleep deprived?
The point when ovaries stop issuing eggs. A woman is said to be ‘in menopause’ 12 months after the date of her last period. The average age of menopause is 51, but it can happen as early as a woman’s late 30's or into her late 50’s, so there’s no saying which stage your mum is at.
Imagine yourself in a sauna where you feel intensely hot, humid, sweaty & red. Maybe if you wear them, your glasses will steam up too! This is what a hot flush feels like. Add to this effect, the unpredictability of when a hot flush hits, and you may get an idea of how your mum feels when she’s in the thrall of a hot flush. It can be very discombobulating when a flush strikes as she’s driving, working, having a conversation and well, just about at any time, in any place! So, knowing this, be aware that if she wants to open the window on a cold day, don’t moan, put another jumper on, and smile.
It’s hot flushes and more. Imagine that what we’ve said about hot flushes, happens when you’re in the land of nod, interrupts your sleep and for some soaks sheets, meaning a change of bedding? Maybe nights of broken sleep explain why your mum can be shirty some days!
Hormones - we’ve all got them and sometimes they collide. Right now, your mum’s hormone levels are dipping and surging, causing her moods to swing like church bells. A little bit of science to illustrate... previously, oestrogen has blocked the breakdown of the happy hormone, serotonin. As her perimenopause takes hold, and oestrogen levels fall, oestrogen receptors in the brain no longer do their job and serotonin levels drop. Add to this, the psychological, physical and emotional impact of other menopause symptoms, unsurprisingly her mood may start to dip. Result? She just may feel more emotional, angry, irritable and overwhelmed & murderous! Take it from us, hard as it is to believe, this isn’t about you, but about your mum - understand, be aware and stand back!
Falling oestrogen levels have an effect on both your mum’s sleep cycle and the quality of her much-needed shut-eye. Oestrogen regulates (limits!) the production of the hormone cortisol, so, when levels drop, cortisol production increases, causing fatigue and anxiety. Result - she won’t feel refreshed or rested when she wakes up, this can persist throughout the day.
Even if your mum has previously been a sound sleeper she may now notice a change in her sleep habits. Add stress, insomnia, night sweats, alongside a constant sense of dread and anxiety as experienced by some perimenopausal and menopausal women, and it can become a fairly toxic fatigue cocktail.
On a positive note
Normal, or a new service, will be resumed. This is a period of transition and adjustment, so your role is to support without patronising. For most women, things will improve as our body adjusts to the new hormonal formula but it may take some time. Some women can experience symptoms for a short period, but for others, the effects can last 2-5 years. Bear with!
So, be mindful of what your mum may be going through. She won’t expect special treatment but maybe a little bit empathy won’t go amiss.