Puberty, menstruation, contraception and pregnancy – hormones really put women through a lot! Menopause is a normal part of a woman’s reproductive life cycle. Typically, it occurs between the late 40s and early 50s. Each woman’s experience of menopause is unique, although most women experience some type of symptom in addition to the ending of their menstrual period.

Why do we experience Menopause?

A woman’s ovaries produce three types of hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Among other things, these hormones play a vital role in menstruation, ovulation and pregnancy. During the menopause transition, the ovaries’ production of oestrogen and progesterone fluctuates and declines, ceasing at menopause.

What happens?

The experience of menopause varies widely from woman to woman and from culture to culture. All women, however, undergo the same basic hormonal changes during menopause.

Hot flushes are characterised by feelings of heat that spread to the chest, neck, face or the entire body. Hot flushes may be accompanied by sweating, nausea, heart palpitations, and flushed skin and can contribute to sleep disturbances.

Flow/Cycle changes are experienced by peri-menopausal women with irregular periods that stop and start with no apparent pattern. It is also common for women to get heavier, lighter or longer periods at this time.

Physical changes of the vagina occur due to the reduction in oestrogen levels at menopause such as thinning of the vagina lining and vaginal dryness. Changes in the vagina’s pH level (which keeps naturally occurring bacteria in balance) can occur, resulting in bacterial infections and dryness.

Skin and hair becomes thinner and less elastic as we age naturally, these changes are accentuated at menopause as oestrogen appears to play an important role in maintaining the skin. Women may notice a change in the skin’s texture and tone and an increase in the appearance of lines and wrinkles. They may also find their skin is drier or oilier than before, or a combination of both.

What can help?

There are a number of supplements available in the pharmacy, which women can take to achieve a smoother transition into this new life stage, including clinically researched and standardised Actaea racemosa (black Cohosh), Trifolium pratense (red clover), and Vitex agnus-castus.

Moisturising pH balanced vaginal gels and moisturising creams including Replens and Dr Wolffes Vagisan can help with vaginal dryness and itching.

Unpleasant symptoms of menopause may be reduced by following a healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining good mental health, reducing stress levels, getting enough good quality sleep, cotton breathable pyjamas and bedding to help with night sweats, avoiding the things that trigger hot flushes, and quitting smoking.

Our Pharmacists and Friendly Society team help women every day with their menopause and post menopause experiences. (Some of us have even been through it.) Please speak to us with your queries so we can help make this time of your life a little easier.

From – The Pharmacy Guild of Australia Top six women’s health issues – and how pharmacy assistants can help.