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Let’s pause for the menopause...

Date: 14 October 2021
Author: Sonia Borrero and Lisa Wilson
Title: Primary Care Contracts Officer, Public Health Lead (Richmond Council)

It’s World Menopause Awareness Day on 18 October.

In Richmond, nearly 24,000 women are aged between 45 and 60, that’s more than 1 in 10 residents. This is the age group for whom perimenopause and menopause are significant life events.

In Richmond, nearly 24,000 women are aged between 45 and 60, that’s more than one in 10 residents. This is the age group for whom perimenopause and menopause are significant life events.

But we don't talk about menopause. Not really. We mention it in passing with comments about women of a 'certain age' and going through 'the change'. The suggestion that women just need to get on with it still exists and is unhelpful, mainly because that’s not the whole story. Women between 45 and 60 are at a peak in their lives - not the end. For many the juggle continues between career, family, and caring responsibilities, but life also offers opportunity and promise for the future.

What is menopause, what happens and why?

Menopause means the last menstrual period. Periods stop due to the decline in levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone in the normal cycle. Hormone levels can fluctuate for several years before eventually becoming so low that periods stop. Perimenopause is the stage from the beginning of menopausal symptoms.

The average age of the natural menopause in the UK is 51 years, but it can occur much earlier or later. Menopause before the age of 45 is known as early menopause and before the age of 40 is premature menopause.

So, put simply it’s a bit like reverse puberty as reproductive hormones in the body start to drop. As with puberty, every individual's experience is different and symptoms vary from person to person (see the sources below for a full list if symptoms). 

Some women may not be aware of what is happening to them, and the mental, physical, and hormonal changes associated with menopause can be unexpected and frightening. Partners and children may not understand or know how to help. That's why it’s so important to raise awareness and show the normality of menopause. Recent conversations in the media have started to reduce the stigma and allow for a wider conversation about women's experiences and the impact of this life stage on health, well-being, relationships, and career. No two women have the same experience but being aware of the issue and how to manage symptoms is the first step to managing menopause more effectively. There are places to go for information with people ready and willing to talk.

The aim of World Menopause Day is to support women who are feeling lost and going through menopause. The theme for 2021 is bone health, a key part of staying healthy through the menopause. The hormone oestrogen is essential for bone health. The drop in this hormone during menopause means women are at higher risk of bone related problems, including osteoporosis.

All women will experience menopause, it is something which affects us, our families, friends, and colleagues. But some of us come into this life stage without the information and support needed to understand what is happening and how to manage it. Your partner or children may want to help and know more too. Let’s understand and raise awareness of this key life stage. Through this we can support each other through the process and get back to living our lives to the full. There are treatment options including hormone replacement therapy and a range of complementary options and methods of managing symptoms. Talk to your GP and ask for support, it's out there.

Sonia Borrero, age 50, who works as a Primary Care Contracts Officer at Richmond Council has shared her story of Menopause:

Have you ever had the feeling that you have reached the point of no return? Well for me, that was when menopause started knocking on my door. It was like an unwelcome visitor that I didn’t have any choice other than to allow entrance into my life. Then the quest for answers started and the frustration reached explosive levels.

People greeting me with, "OMG you have put on weight," like I don’t have a mirror in my house. Bear in mind, I no longer use them very much, I do not like what I look back at. Anyway, you have to smile to be polite and say "yeah it seems…". Or you go to a doctor looking for answers and all they tell you is, "you are too fat you should eat less," genius.

Life changes with the menopause, it is like I have become a reverse teen. Everything aches, mood swings, body changes. But when I was a teen, I had my mum, aunties, friends to support me. It was a cheerful time, becoming a woman. If I knew what waited for me on the side… Well now I know there was not much support or understanding on the effects of this period of time. We need a more compassionate way so we at least could feel supported and understood? This phase is no walk in the park, it affects not only me but also those around me, family, friends, and colleagues.

I am not the same person I used to be sometimes. The happy go lucky girl is lost in a body that is no longer listening and is going in a direction I don’t like, but I can't stop. I looked for answers and I ended up with more questions. I wonder how it can be that in the 21st century in which everything has advanced and evolved, female anatomy and the implications of changes have not been explored or identified?

This will happen to all women, maybe having different struggles or symptoms but the changes will still be there.

Where you can find out more

See the following resources:

Some other services you might find useful:

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Updated: 9 November 2021