Get menopause ready

Menopause is the time when a woman’s periods stop, because the ovaries stop producing hormones and releasing eggs for fertilisation. The end of periods heralds the end of a woman’s reproductive years, and is a natural part of the ageing process.
The menopause typically occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, although every experience is totally different and can start much earlier for some women. One is said to be ‘post-menopausal’ after a full 12-months of no periods. But the transition into menopause doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process.
The transition phase is known as the perimenopause and it can be a hormonal rollercoaster to say the least. As your body prepares to close the final chapter on periods, some encounter emotional changes and an all-you-can-eat buffet of physical symptoms, ranging from night sweats and brain fog to libido drops and bladder weakness. It’s not all bad though. Every menopause experience is different. Many have very few or no symptoms, while many women thrive during the menopause – rogue beard hairs and all.
If you feel nervous about navigating this natural process, join the club. According to a Forbes survey, around 64% of women feel underprepared for the menopause.
The more knowledge you have about this life stage, and the more you know what to expect, the more empowered you’ll feel to take it on. Because we don’t talk enough about the menopause, too many are caught off guard by it. Read on to find out (almost) everything you need to know about preparing for the perimenopause and menopause.

The least I expected about the menopause, was for it to happen. Nobody told me, it wasn't like I was warned.

What is the perimenopause?

The menopausal transition, also known as the perimenopause, encompasses the months and years ahead of the menopause. The perimenopause typically starts in your 40s and lasts on average around four years, but we cannot stress enough that every experience is different. It can last several months or – brace yourselves – up to 12 years.
In the lead-up to the menopause, the ovaries release less oestrogen (the hormone responsible for maintaining the reproductive system). The decline in oestrogen results in a variety of signs and symptoms that most women can expect to experience. One notable tell-tale symptom is your periods going haywire, with longer or shorter menstrual cycles.
As well as period changes, the perimenopause can cause hot flushes, night sweats, sleeping problems, vaginal dryness, bladder weakness, fatigue, brain fog, moodiness, full blown rage (who could blame you?), anxiety, migraines, loss of libido and vaginal dryness, joint aches and pains, and changes to your skin, hair and breasts.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prepare and manage perimenopausal symptoms so they cause minimal disruption to your life.

You start feeling different in sooooo many ways.

Tips to prepare for the perimenopause and menopause

1. Keep track of your periods

For many, period changes are the first indication of perimenopause – your once-regular monthly cycle may become erratic. Whatever phase of life you’re at then, it is always good practice to keep track of your periods. This becomes especially important as you approach your 40s as your cycle can go rogue, becoming shorter, longer or generally unpredictable.
To prepare for the perimenopause and menopause, try to get into the habit of logging your period, as this can help you can identify any emerging bleeding patterns or anomalies in your cycle. There are plenty of menopause-specific period-tracker apps out there to make this process simple. Some even allow you to track accompanying symptoms and rate their severity, which may be helpful if you need to talk to a doctor later down the line.

2. Stay healthy

Many women lament the loss of their waistline around perimenopause and the menopause. Weight gain is a totally normal part of the natural ageing process. A decline in oestrogen and muscle mass can slow your metabolism down, changing the way your body stores fat.
There’s of course absolutely nothing wrong with a few wobbly bits. One post-menopausal woman we spoke to said, “Having a rounder tummy is a rite of passage”. Body changes can always feel a little unsettling – we’re creatures of habit after all – but understanding and accepting that this is a natural part of ageing is important.
Since your hormonal landscape is changing, calcium, iron and fibre are nutrients that menopausal woman commonly lack, so make sure to eat a balance diet packed with vegetables, dairy and unrefined sources of fibre. You may also wish to take supplements to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs during the transition. Drinking plenty of water will help keep you hydrated and flush any toxins from the body.
As well as maintaining a balanced diet, try to exercise as regularly as you can muster. Low-impact cardio and yoga are thought to alleviate symptoms such as hot flushes. We’re by no means saying you can 'downward dog’ your way out of this, but it might help a bit. Especially when you’ve not slept all night, the little things go a long way.

“I asked my doctor to test me for early dementia”.

When Sandie started to experience memory loss, she had no idea it was related to the menopause. Her advice – write everything down in a notebook and talk to someone about your experience. 
Watch Sandie’s story now.

3. Hair, skin and nails are everything

One thing you can do to prepare for the perimenopause and menopause is to take good care of your hair, skin and nails. Many women battle changes in these areas during the menopause.
Hormonal imbalances can cause thinning of hair and the weakening of nails, so try looking into vitamins and supplements to keep hair and nails strong. Rest assured, problems may go away naturally as hormones settle down post-menopause.
Muscle loss and collagen depletion can cause skin to sag, and lines and wrinkles can become more apparent. This, again, is a totally normal part of ageing. Don’t panic. You’re getting older, but many report that ageing gives them the gift of not caring what people think. And what better gift can there be than that?
As melanin production slows, skin can look paler, and age spots can start to appear. Use SPF to protect skin from sun damage, exfoliate regularly to invigorate the skin and invest in a good quality age-targeted moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated and supple. If anything, it’ll make you feel lovely and pampered.

4. Dealing with emotional changes

Emotional changes are one of the most common – but least talked about – parts of the menopause. Declining oestrogen levels can make you feel like you’re in a constant state of PMS. You may notice that you experience heightened emotional volatility in the days leading up to your period, when your hormones are naturally at their lowest. You might want to throttle your partner. You may passive-aggressively bash pots and pans around the kitchen on an angry hunt for the cheese grater. You may shriek expletives at your computer when it takes too long to load. Feelings of irritability, sadness, forgetfulness and a lack of patience may increase gradually around the time of your period to several days a month, and then more as you get further into the menopause.
Many women find that lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, good sleep hygiene and regular exercise can alleviate the emotional elements of the menopause. Adopting calming practices such as deep breathing, yoga and meditation in the run up to perimenopause can also help you manage the emotions.
You might find speaking about the menopause with your loved ones helps. Tell them what’s going on. That way, they’ll forgive you if you hurl a mug at them. And, hopefully, they’ll also support you. Having someone to talk to can feel like a crack of relief.

5. Get talking about the menopause

Did you know that right now, around 6 million women are going through the menopause worldwide? According to the charity Menopause Support, approximately 1 in 4 women will experience debilitating symptoms, and many post-menopausal women say that they experience a lack of general support and understanding.
To help prepare for the perimenopause and menopause, try to get comfortable discussing the topic with friends, family and work colleagues. Perhaps you feel uneasy with the idea of your periods stopping forever, or you might want to know what your company does to support women juggling hot flushes and Excel spreadsheets at work (not a fun combo!). By openly discussing menopause, you will be helping to break the stigma, and lending support to others facing menopause-related challenges.

6. Research menopause products and treatment options

In preparation for the perimenopause and menopause, you might like to spend some time researching and considering some of the many treatment options available. For example, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help balance out hormones, lubricants can help combat vaginal dryness, cognitive behavioural therapy can help you manage mood swings, and a robust Kegel exercise regime, paired with TENA pads can help manage any menopause-related incontinence issues.
Product image of TENA Lights Sensitive Ultra Mini and Ultra Normal pads

Dealing with incontinence

Bladder weakness is a common symptom of menopause. TENA Lights Sensitive is our most caring pad yet, made with a soft top layer that’s extra gentle on delicate menopausal skin. Now with at least 50% plant-based material, and our first ever paper packaging. 
When the perimenopause and menopause arrive, you don’t have to go through any of it alone. Exploring the world of treatment options ahead of time can help you get a good idea of how to tackle the challenging bits when they arise.
We all know someone going through the menopause. And yet we so rarely talk about it. Why not ask someone in your life how they coped with the menopause? Everyone has their own tips and tricks for getting through it, from putting their pillow in the freezer to treating yourself to a midday siesta. None of us should be caught off guard by the menopause simply because we don’t talk about it enough. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be. Promise.

TENA is here to help you navigate your menopause journey, including practical advice for menopausal incontinence. If you feel that you need more support with preparing for the perimenopause and menopause, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional, like your nearest GP.

Further reading