I found myself being asked ‘what is the menopause?’ by a friend’s 13 year old son a few weeks ago. All the women in the room chimed in to answer. It was not surprising to me that he asked, nor was it surprising all the women answered. Interestingly I had no idea about the menopause at his age and I had absolutely no clue about peri-menopause until I was in my mid 30s. However, I found myself wondering how much louder the conversation seemingly is right now than when I was his age.
It does seem that the terms menopause and peri-menopause have become widely discussed in the media and medical world recently. In my experience, this does not always translate to it being more understood. It can be incredibly helpful to know discussions are happening as this can normalise the experience, conversely it can leave us feeling more adrift, especially if we find we are not fitting into any standardised categories or stories.
It led to me writing two short pieces (part two will be published at a later date). Both aim to provide a little portion of food for thought about the concept and possible options for personal explorations around the menopause. In my mind, there is no right or wrong way to consider or act in terms of the menopause, it is whatever feels right for the individual.
Medically the menopause is depicted as the final menstrual period (FMP). This is confirmed after one year of menstrual period. Typically it occurs around 51 years old, however UK statistics show this can vary between 44 and 55 years. One in 100 women can experience menopause before the age of 40 (often due to medical interventions). The peri-menopause is a term used to depict another transition stage before the menopause whereby the ovaries start to make less oestrogen. This typically starts around 40 and can last between four and eight years.
Some people assume the menopause is a medical problem and prefer to manage it with drugs. Medical interventions can be a very positive experience. However, for others this is not always possible or perhaps how they want to relate to this life stage.
Some feel it is best to be with the experience, whilst others want to use alternative routes. Some might see it as an opportunity to face up to changes in their life span and ageing processes and some might not see it as a problem all all.
Whatever your choice or position there are some brilliant options, discussions and spaces which can support women going through these transformations (see some options in the links below).
I feel it is definitely worth exploring all the options and finding out what feels right for you. Therapy might be a space to do this. For me, it is also important to consider that we cannot always place the responsibility on the individual and it is worth considering how history and culture has impacted the medicalisation of these transitions and consequently how and what we think, feel and experience in terms of this life stage. If you are interested in this then you might want to read part two.
To enquire about psychotherapy sessions with Susanna, please contact her here, or to view our full clinical team, please click here.
Susanna Petitpierre, BACP Registered, is an experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor, providing long and short term counselling. Her approach is primarily grounded in existential therapy and she works with individuals. Susanna is available at our Brighton and Hove Practice.
Further reading by Susanna Petitpierre