Menopause is a time of transition when your body goes through some changes. We’re all aware of some symptoms, such as hot flashes or changes to mood and sleep patterns, but other symptoms, which are just as impactful, are rarely spoken about openly. Below are some of the less often talked about symptoms that are perfectly normal for menopause, and can often be treated.
According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), somewhere between 17% and 45% of menopausal women find sex to be painful 1. This can happen for a few reasons. Reduced hormones can reduce the blood flow to the vagina, which affects natural lubrication and leads to dryness. The tissues in the vaginal wall may also thin during menopause, in what is known as vaginal atrophy. Both cases can cause discomfort, and even inflammation, during sex 2.
There are treatments that you can discuss with your doctor. You may be prescribed with oestrogen creams, vaginal moisturisers or adjustments to hormonal replacement therapy. There are also laser treatments available to stimulate collagen production, which in turn stimulates regeneration of vaginal mucosa and greatly reduces symptoms of dryness, atrophy and painful sex.
One of the functions of oestrogen is to stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain’s memory centre. Low oestrogen may affect the ability of neurotransmitters to communicate between cells. Other menopausal symptoms, such as stress and difficulty sleeping, can also affect memory. Hormone replacement therapy can help improve memory, as can eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and certain nuts.
Many women experience urinary incontinence as they approach menopause, particularly women who have had children earlier in life. The pelvic floor can be stretched during childbirth and it can lose its elasticity with age. The pelvic floor supports the bladder, so stretching and loss of elasticity can lead to leakage, particularly when laughing or sneezing.
Many women who experience incontinence do not seek help, which is unfortunate because it’s very common and there are ways to treat it. The first lines of treatment are usually exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor. Other options may include surgery or less-invasive laser treatments to strengthen the vaginal walls so that they can better support the bladder.
There are many possible reasons for hair loss during menopause, which vary from person to person. Hormone fluctuations and even decreasing progesterone can affect the sebaceous glands and hair follicles, impeding new growth and changing the structure of the hair itself. Some hair loss may also be related to thyroid dysfunction or inefficient processing of nutrients.
Some women find that taking supplements or using topical ointments can help reduce hair loss, but it’s important to discuss these with your doctor first, as some minerals can be contraindicated with certain conditions or medications. There are also PRP treatments, in which the doctor draws a little bit of your blood, extracts the platelet-rich plasma and injects it back into the scalp to regenerate the follicles.