Suffolk Food Hall talk: What every woman needs to know about the menopause

Menopause can be a challenging time for women but understanding more about about it can help them ma

Menopause can be a challenging time for women but understanding more about about it can help them make informed decisions, says therapist Emma Dalton. Picture: Thinkstockphotos. - Credit: Archant

Not so long ago it was referred to as “the change”, the time of a woman’s life that was so taboo it had to be spoken of euphemistically, the words perhaps not even uttered aloud but mouthed silently, like a Les Dawson comedy character from the 1970s.

Emma Dalton is giving a talk about women's health and the menopause on February 8.
Picture: Simply

Emma Dalton is giving a talk about women's health and the menopause on February 8. Picture: Simply C Photography. - Credit: Archant

These days, we might give the menopause its proper name but that doesn’t mean we’re a lot better at talking about it - or understanding it.

Meg Matthews, former wife of Oasis star Noel Gallagher, was overwhelmed by menopausal symptoms when she turned 50 and, shocked at “the lack of support and understanding” for women like her, set up a website to empower others.

And just days ago, the model Yasmin Le Bon, now 53, opened up about her struggles with the hormonal changes that accompany the end of fertility, saying it affected her memory, made her tired, fractious, caused her to ache all over and gain weight.

“It’s important that you tell people this,” she told Red magazine. “I share this with my (daughters) because I want them to be a bit more prepared than I was.”

Model Yasmin Le Bon has spoken about her experience of the menopause.
Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Model Yasmin Le Bon has spoken about her experience of the menopause. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire. - Credit: PA


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It’s a sentiment echoed complementary therapist Emma Dalton.

On Thursday (February 8) she will share her expertise on the subject in a fundraising event in aid of Ormiston Families at the Suffolk Food Hall.

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“Not enough women understand their own bodies,” says Emma, whose talk is aimed at educating women about this confusing time of life so they can make informed decisions about the many conventional and alternative therapies available.

Of course, not everyone suffers the litany of nightmare symptoms, from hot flushes to crippling anxiety, headaches, mental fog and mood swings, that can accompany menopause. But many do. And for them it can be devastating. One in four women will experience debilitating symptoms that can last up to 15 years and, according to a 2014 Nuffield Health survey, 10% of women seriously consider giving up work as a result.

Just last week it was reported Nottinghamshire Police was to open ‘crying rooms’ and provide extra desk fans for officers and staff going through the menopause as part of a policy introduced when it was discovered women were leaving the force after suffering menopausal symptoms.

Emma, a medical herbalist, homeopath and therapist who has a special interest in women’s health and fertility and works alongside conventional doctors, says far too few women understand the effect stress can have on their menopausal health or know enough about the physical upheaval under way at this time of life.

“The menopause is about the body adapting to changes that are going on,” she says. “It is very individual and there are women out there who will sail through it. Not everyone will have problems but if you do there are things you can do. But you’ve got to know what the choices are.”

Some symptoms are a result of falling oestrogen levels but, says Emma, others can be caused by changes in other hormones, such as progesterone and testosterone. What’s more, levels of those hormones don’t always tail off evenly. They can fluctuate, causing symptoms to come and go.

“So, for instance, you can have times of feeling fine and then times of feeling awful when hot flushes come back with a vengeance,” she says. “This is why some women don’t realise what’s going on.”

In addition, she says, many women don’t realise they are only in the menopause (when the ovaries stop producing eggs) when they’ve not had a period for 12 months. The time before that, when hormone levels start to change and symptoms can begin, is called perimenopause and can start as early as age 35.

Oestrogen, says Emma, is only one of the hormones involved . It’s changes in progesterone levels, however, that are often behind anxiety while alterations in testosterone levels can affect confidence. As hormone production in the ovaries slows down, our bodies are designed to produce oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone at other sites in the body, including the adrenal glands, body fat, the skin and the brain.

It’s easy to see why women are often fearful of this stage of life and avoid having to think about it for as long as they can but, says Emma, knowledge is power when it comes to being prepared and making decisions.

“There is always something that can help, whatever your symptoms. You just have to make sure it’s right for you and persevere in the early stages in order to reap the benefits.”

Emma Dalton’s Women’s Health and Menopause talk takes place at Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich, on February 8 at 9.30. For tickets and more information visit www.ormiston.org/events/an-alternative-look-at-the-menopause. For information on Emma’s work visit www.emmadalton.net.

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