On the latest episode of The Healthy Practice podcast from WriteUpp, Dr Rebecca Lewis from Newson Health discussed the importance of advocating for yourself and your clients during this transitional phase of life. In this episode, we explored the definition of menopause and how healthcare professionals can better support women through this significant life stage.
You can watch the conversation with Dr Lewis here:
Advocating for Yourself and Your Clients During Menopause
Menopause is a significant and natural transition in a woman’s life, yet it can often be a challenging and overlooked experience for many. During this time, women often have to advocate for themselves as symptoms can be misdiagnosed or dismissed.
Advocating for yourself may include having open and honest conversations with healthcare providers about symptoms and treatment options, as well as actively seeking out information and resources to understand better and manage the changes that come with menopause. It also means being proactive about self-care and making choices that prioritise physical and emotional well-being. You can find a wealth of information on this on the Newson Health website.
For healthcare professionals, advocating for clients during menopause is equally important. Dr Lewis emphasised the importance of advocating for clients through menopause, which can involve being proactive in seeking information and support, asking for referrals to menopause specialists, and discussing treatment options that are tailored to individual needs and preferences. It’s also important for healthcare professionals to stay informed about the latest evidence-based approaches to managing menopausal symptoms and to provide empathetic and personalised care to women going through this transition.
Menopause is when your ovaries cease producing eggs, leading to a decrease in hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This hormonal shift can bring about various and often debilitating symptoms.
Officially, menopause is confirmed when a woman has not experienced a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Preceding this phase is perimenopause, a transitional period during which menstrual cycles still occur but become irregular due to fluctuating and reduced levels of hormones, particularly oestrogen. Being aware of and identifying the signs of perimenopause and menopause enables women and clinicians to seek appropriate advice and treatment options.
Menopause is a natural biological process that every woman goes through, typically around the age of 45-55, but it can happen much earlier. It is characterised by decreased oestrogen and progesterone production by the ovaries. This hormonal shift can lead to a variety of symptoms, including hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, and changes in libido.
Many women feel dismissed or overlooked when seeking help for their menopausal symptoms, but with the right support and resources, menopause can be a time of empowerment and growth rather than a source of frustration and discomfort.
Physical Symptoms Experienced During Menopause
Menopause, a natural stage typically occurring between ages 45 and 55, involves significant bodily changes due to reduced oestrogen and progesterone production:
- Hot flushes and sweats: Sudden, intense feelings of heat, particularly in the face and neck, often accompanied by sweating, rapid heartbeat, and sometimes anxiety.
- Menstrual changes: Irregular periods leading up to the eventual cessation of menstruation.
- Vaginal dryness: Decreased moisture in the vaginal area, causing discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse.
- Bone density loss: Reduction in bone density due to lower oestrogen levels, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
- Weight gain: Body composition and weight changes are often experienced during this phase.
- Skin and hair changes: Variations in skin texture and hair health.
- Joint pain: Increased instances of aches and pains in the joints.
These symptoms can vary in severity and duration for each person. It’s important for clinicians to understand and recognise these symptoms to provide appropriate support and treatment.
Emotional and psychological symptoms associated with menopause
Menopause also brings emotional and psychological challenges impacting quality of life:
- Mood swings: Intense feelings of sadness, irritability, and anxiety due to hormonal fluctuations.
- Increased risk of anxiety and depression: Hormonal changes disrupt brain neurotransmitters, leading to heightened vulnerability to these conditions.
- Exacerbation of existing psychological conditions: Conditions like ADHD or bipolar disorder may worsen, with intensified symptoms due to hormonal shifts.
The impact of menopause on mental health and well-being cannot be understated. Dr Lewis emphasised the importance of recognising and addressing the psychological effects of menopause, as they can have a significant impact on a person’s overall quality of life.
How Private Practitioners Can Help
Clinicians in private practice can provide valuable assistance to clients through menopause. By staying informed and engaged with the latest research and best practices, healthcare professionals can offer meaningful support and guidance to those going through this stage of life.
One of the key roles of healthcare professionals in menopause management is to educate and empower women about their options. By arming women with knowledge, clinicians can help them make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Tools like the Balance App, created by Newson Health, allow patients to track their symptoms, access personalised expert content, download a Health Report, share stories in the community and lots more.
Therapists in various fields can offer significant support to women undergoing menopause. Here’s how therapists from different specialities, such as physiotherapists and mental health therapists, can assist:
- Exercise programs: Design targeted exercise routines to maintain bone density, improve muscle strength, and enhance overall physical health, which can be affected by menopause.
- Pelvic floor rehabilitation: Provide guidance on pelvic floor exercises to address issues like urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction, common during menopause.
- Pain management: Offer techniques for managing joint pain and aches, often experienced during menopause, through stretching, strengthening, and other therapeutic exercises.
- Education: Educate on posture and ergonomic adjustments to alleviate discomfort in daily activities.
Mental Health Therapists:
- Counselling and psychotherapy: Provide a safe space for discussing the emotional and psychological challenges of menopause, including mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Help manage symptoms like sleep disturbances and mood fluctuations through CBT, which can change negative thought patterns and behaviours.
- Stress management techniques: Teach relaxation and stress-reduction methods such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.
- Support groups: Facilitate or recommend support groups for sharing experiences and strategies, reducing feelings of isolation.
Both types of therapists play a crucial role in offering holistic care, addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of menopause. By working collaboratively with GPs and menopause specialists, they can help women navigate this transition more comfortably and maintain a higher quality of life.
Treatment Options for Menopausal Symptoms
Treatment options for menopausal symptoms include a variety of approaches to alleviate common issues like hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and sleep disturbances. Dr. Rebecca Lewis stresses the importance of individualised treatment selection.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): This is the primary treatment for menopause symptoms, involving oestrogen and sometimes progestogen supplementation to counteract hormonal decline. HRT effectively reduces hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings and can improve bone health.
- Non-hormonal medications: Options like SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) are available for those unable or unwilling to use HRT. These medications help manage mood swings, hot flushes, and sleep issues.
- Lifestyle changes: Incorporating regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress-reduction activities such as yoga or meditation can significantly mitigate menopausal symptoms.
Women are encouraged to work closely with healthcare providers to explore these treatments and find a personalised approach, advocating for their needs to manage menopause effectively.
Listen to The Healthy Practice Podcast
The Healthy Practice guides you through the common problems of starting your own practice.
We aim to help you take control of other aspects of practice management – including work-life balance, marketing, finances, & more – by offering insights & tips from practitioners who have mastered the early stages of private practice.
To find out more about Newson Health and their work, visit their website.
You can also recommend the Balance app to your clients here: