All women will experience the menopause.
The term menopause literally means “the end of periods” and this is what most of us see as its defining factor. In fact, the menopause is a gradual process that begins several years before our periods stop – the early stages are known as the perimenopause.
Natural menopause takes place when the ovaries become unable to produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone; however, menopause can also occur when the ovaries are damaged by specific treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or when the ovaries are removed, often during a hysterectomy.
The decline in hormone levels can cause many symptoms, the severity and frequency differs dramatically for each of us.
Hot Flushes Night Sweats Palpitations Insomnia Joint Pain Headaches Anxiety Irritability Mood Swings Difficulty Concentrating Low Libido Sexual Problems Dizziness Forgetfulness Bladder Problems Urinary Tract Infections
For most women these symptoms last around four years but in 10% of us they can continue for up to twelve years.
The most commonly used conventional treatment is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT is now only indicated for short-term treatment of menopausal symptoms in the UK and many women worry about possible side effects.
The British Acupuncture Council website cites research studies that show that acupuncture may help reduce menopause symptoms by:
- Regulating serum estradiol, follicle stimulating hormone and luteotrophic hormone
- Increasing relaxation and reducing tension. Acupuncture can alter the brain’s mood chemistry, reducing serotonin levels and increasing endorphins and neuropeptide Y levels, which can help to combat negative affective states
- Stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
With the menopause our natural child-bearing years come to an end but we should embrace the future as a new chapter begins.