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Day 9. Christmas and the Menopause

9 in 10 Women are Never Educated on the Menopause

Coping with the Menopause this Christmas

The Facts

A recent study by UCL has found that over 9 in 10 Women were never taught about the menopause during education, and over 6 in 10 only educated themselves after their symptoms started. It is estimated that there are around 13 million perimenopausal or menopausal women in the UK (1/3 of the entire female population), yet the majority of women about to go through the menopause have no knowledge about it.

While menopause education was introduced to the RSE curriculum in September 2020 for all teenage boys and girls in England, is remains the case that only 1 in 4 women feel prepared for the the menopause with those currently going through perimenopause never having been educated about it.

December can be a stressful time for the best of us, organising Christmas events, managing finances and navigating family dynamics is challenging enough without the added hormone changes and symptoms the menopause can bring. Low mood, anxiety and fatigue can be overwhelming and put added pressure on your mental health this Christmas.

So, what can you do to help yourself this December?

Anxiety & Stress

The idea of the perfect Christmas can put a lot of pressure on you if you are in charge of organising the day. If you have the menopause ‘brain fog‘, planning Christmas and organising the gifts, food, home and events might be a step too much this year. Talk to those you will be spending Christmas with and find ways to take the pressure off. Delegate the festivities and make time for yourself, even if its just 30 minutes each day for some ‘you time’.

Breathing and relaxation exercises have also been found to relieve feelings of stress. Find the technique or exercise that works for you, that you can turn to when things start to feel overwhelming. Knowing you have a coping technique when the anxiety gets bad can relieve some stress in its self, so find what works for you.

Alcohol Intake

Alcohol can trigger symptoms such as hot flushes, and enhance others such as sleep disruption and depression. There is a strong argument for reducing alcohol intake in general, but particularly during the menopause. While the festive season often revolves around being ‘merry’ with a drink, it might be a good idea this year to come up with a plan for December in order to reduce your alcohol intake.

Not only can alcohol worsen hot flushes, but also leads to highly disrupted sleep and therefore increased anxiety and worsened mood.

There are plenty of alcohol free alternatives available nowadays, and staying hydrated and sober could help with some of the symptoms mentioned above. Ask yourself if it is worth it – and if you find it helps, it may be worth giving alcohol up for good.

Family & Relationships

Symptoms of the menopause can often put strain on relationships. More than 7 in 10 women surveyed by the Family Law Menopause Project blamed the menopause for the breakdown of their marriage. The added stress of Christmas may increase this strain. So make sure you have a continued conversation with your loved one about what you are going through, how they can help and how you can navigate this time together.

Christmas often means seeing the full extended family, which on its own can often result in increased tensions. Talking to your family about your menopause can help both you and those around you feel more relaxed and have a better understanding of what you are going through. You do not have to feel isolated this Christmas, get rid of the stigma and open up to those around you.

Christmas Finances

Finances can be one of the biggest causes of stress for many families at Christmas, particularly amid a cost of living crisis, so don’t let your existing anxiety symptoms worsen due to the financial pressures of Christmas.

Citizen’s Advice have come up with ten top tips to avoid a Christmas ‘debt hangover’: plan early, prioritise bills, don’t rely on overdrafts or credit, keep things simple, shop around, buy safe, read the small print, do your credit checks, be organised, and start planning for next Christmas.

Sleep

Declining hormone levels can have significant impacts on your quality of sleep. Feeling tired and drained is only likely to worsen during a busy Christmas period. Maintaining a consistent night-time routine over the festive period can help with falling and staying asleep.

The use of HRT can also improve symptoms such as night sweats, frequent urination and quality of sleep. Speak with your GP about the use of HRT to see if it could be right for you.

Get Support

There is support available if you are struggling with symptoms from the menopause. First and foremost, if you are experiencing symptoms of the menopause, book in to see your GP and talk through your options.

The Menopause Matters website provides up-to-date information, symptoms and treatment options. Treatment options can also be found on the NHS website. You can find your local NHS or private menopause specialist via he British Menopause Society website, or find a talking therapy service via the NHS website.

Listen to the stories of other women, and find out more about other women’s experiences. This is a good reminder that you are not alone. Videos available on the Health Talk website.

There are also a number of charities offering information and support, including Women’s Health Concern, Menopause Matters, Daisy Network (for premature menopause), Menopause Cafe, Queermenopause (for people who identify as LGBTQ+).

For women in the police service, the College of Policing have published specific guidance on addressing the impact of symptoms at work. OscarKilo also have a lot of information on their website including national guidance, action groups, videos and blogs.