COUNSELLING FOR THE MENOPAUSE
Life is constantly evolving and changing for everyone. Women though, experience various transitions in life, and the menopause is one point in a continuum of these life stages. Have you ever considered counselling for the menopause. To find out how it can help and support you, read on.
WHAT IS THE MENOPAUSE?
Every woman will experience the menopause as part of their natural aging process. Menopause means the last menstrual period. Periods stop because the low levels of Oestrogen and Progesterone do not stimulate the lining of the womb (endometrium) in the normal menstrual cycle. When this happens, hormone levels can fluctuate for several years before eventually becoming so low that the endometrium stays thin and no longer bleeds. When this occurs, it denotes the end of a woman becoming pregnant naturally.
However, the menopause can also occur when the ovaries are damaged by a specific treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy often used in the treatment of Cancer, or when the ovaries are removed, at the time of surgery i.e. having a hysterectomy.
WHAT HAPPENS ON THE LEAD UP, DURING AND AFTER THE MENOPAUSE
The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51. Both the NHS and the Government website for the workforce says that the menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55. It further says that in a few exceptional cases women may become menopausal in their 30’s, or even younger.
The term “Climacteric” refers to the time when hormone levels are changing, up to the periods actually stopping. Thus, the reducing and changing of hormone levels, can cause early menopausal symptoms. When your body starts to make the transition, it is known at the perimenopause. At this stage there may still be enough hormones produced to stimulate the lining of the womb (endometrium) to produce monthly periods (menstruation). In essence, the perimenopause is the stage from the beginning of the menopausal symptoms to the post-menopause.
Once menstruation has ceased for 12 continuous months, a woman is said to be at the next stage of the transition and this is when there are physical effects due to the continuation of the effects of the loss of Oestrogen and Progesterone. This period is referred to as post-menopause.
Early menopause, but before the age of 40, is known as premature menopause.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE MENOPAUSE?
The menopause can bring with it significant physical and psychological changes and take its toll on women’s mental health, although it will affect each woman very differently. This makes each person’s journey very different. Some women will have hardly any issues at all whilst others may experience some of the following:
Physical Symptoms can include: hot flushes, night sweats, palpitations, insomnia and joint aches and headaches.
The hot flush, is well known as the classic menopausal symptom and affects 60–85% of menopausal women. Hot flushes and sweats are called vasomotor symptoms and vary immensely in both their severity and duration; for many women, they occur occasionally and do not cause much distress, but for about 20% they can be severe and can cause significant interference with work, sleep and quality of life.
Insomnia (sleeplessness) or disturbed sleep (leading to tiredness and fatigue), may be partly due to the night sweats, control of which can lead to an improved sleep pattern.
Joint aches commonly occur, often affecting neck, wrists, and shoulders but recognition of their possible association to menopause is often lacking.
Psychological menopause symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, difficulty coping and forgetfulness may be related to hormonal changes, either directly or indirectly e.g. due to sleep disturbance. However, other life events such as worry over elderly relatives, teenage children, and pressures from work commonly occur around the time of menopause and may contribute to such “symptoms”.
Sexual Problems may be caused by vaginal dryness, due to low oestrogen levels, resulting in discomfort during intercourse.
Later menopause symptoms are also due to the effects of an oestrogen deficiency on the bladder and vagina and include:
- Passing urine more often by day and/or by night
- Discomfort on passing urine
- Urine infection
- Leakage of urine
- Vaginal dryness, discomfort, discharge, burning and itching
Vaginal and bladder symptoms are very common and can cause significant distress yet are often under-reported and under-treated. Women are frequently too embarrassed to discuss these problems.
HOW I CAN HELP AS A THERAPIST
As the menopause is a very personal journey and affects each woman very differently, I would offer therapy to reflect this.
The BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) have recently published an article for Therapists on the menopause and it says that “Not all women have hot flushes and the majority don’t suffer from depression.” “There are still unknowns regarding the mental effects of menopause. For instance, research has found no link between poor concentration and menopause, yet some women report one.”
It also says “Some may crave food, gain weight more easily than before and find it extremely difficult to lose it. Your sense of your physical self changes with increases in weight, together with fear of never being the self you’d always been before, and the worry that to complain about it sounds superficial and ridiculous.”
With any part of the information given in this blog, counselling help and support can allow women a warm congruent non-judgemental and safe space to explore the range of issues that may occur as a result of the menopausal journey, some of which may be related to their mental health.
The menopause will affect feelings and its symptoms may contribute to feelings of being alone, confused, embarrassed, sad or anxious, all of which may cause low self-esteem.
As well as these symptoms, there may be other factors surrounding women at this age, such as children leaving, or returning home.
As a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, I would aim to explore what is at the root of your issues. I will be able to normalise the menopause as a natural transition in life, consider providing information surrounding the menopause regarding some of the overwhelming emotions that may occur and find ways or strategies to manage to empower you as a client. I can provide validation and empathy for the feelings that arise and can help develop a positive image surrounding concerns of a change in body shape or weight gain. I would speak about lifestyle changes and encourage a client to prioritise self-care practices such as exercise, healthy eating and stress management and would help a client maintain healthy relationships with regard to those closest to them. Therapy would be tailor made to address these range of concerns and through a process of collaboration, you will find that balance comes back into your life, and you will be able to move forwards in a more positive and confident manner as your perspective changes and you begin see things from a different angle.
So why wait, take your first steps today by having the courage, determination and will to remain the person you believe you are,
and to know you will be helped and supported in a calm and safe space during your menopausal journey
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I operate from clinics in both Epsom, Surrey and Crawley, West Sussex