Why women feel great after the menopause

They've been through the menopause. So where are the Zimmer frames and tracksuit bottoms? New research shows that most women feel better than ever after 'the change'. No wonder, says Virginia Ironside - it's all that free time and uninhibited sex

I can still remember the time when 30 seemed over the hill. And when I was 30, 40 seemed pretty ancient. But when I was 40, all I could see was a terrible brick wall ahead, with the dreadful word "MENOPAUSE" written on it in jagged letters. Naturally, no one pre-menopause dared even consider what might lie over that wall. A graveyard full of skulls and crossbones? A field full of ancient people on Zimmer frames with pee pouring down their legs? At best, it was just a sea of asexual oldies, all wearing trackie bottoms, with frightful short haircuts and no make-up who lived their lives in motorway service stations, set in a land of aches and pains and poverty, all marinated in bitterness and complaints.

Now there's no question that during the menopause things can feel grim. Hot flushes, children leaving home, desperate feelings that it's "too late" to do anything you wanted to, but once over that, most women find that life post-menopause is one of nature's best-kept secrets. According to a survey commissioned for Health Plus magazine, 72 per cent of women think they are "just as attractive as before", 82 per cent feel "as feminine as before", eight out of 10 say they now have an overwhelming "sense of freedom" and six out of 10 women say they feel "better than ever before". They also feel an average of 10 years younger than their real age.

The menopause, in other words, is something to be looked forward to, rather than dreaded.

There's the obvious plus, of course. No fears of pregnancy, which means that you can sleep with whoever you like without taking any precautions, in the full knowledge that there's not a chance of an unwanted baby appearing on the scene. This knowledge makes a lot of women feel they can throw inhibition to the wind, and many have an infinitely jollier sex-life post-menopause than pre. Then there are none of the problems of periods. Most women get used to the physical aspect of the "curse", but I remember going through my diary every year in January, marking out when my periods were due, and writing, a week before: "Might feel weird" just to remind myself that this was the time my personality might take on weepy or monstrous dimensions. After the menopause, not only do most women begin to feel far more even in their temperament, but that infuriating male remark "Are you on your period?" (delivered patronisingly just after you've let rip over a completely righteous cause) withers on men's lips when there are no more periods to be had.

Lack of anything to nurture can be a sadness, but oddly, post-menopause, maternal feelings find other outlets. Relationships with younger people are far more rewarding when you're older. When your past is greater than your future, you will, if you're anything like me, find that it's far easier to make relationships with younger people because post-50, you are no threat and can often take on a liberal parent role.

Many people hate the idea that death is nearer than it used to be. But I think that being able to see it sharply in the distance makes it less frightening. You can see most clearly how you might like to spend the rest of your life. No longer do you imagine that there is any chance of your becoming a world-famous ice-skater. It may be sad to lose your dreams in one way, but in another this loss makes life so much more realistic.

The confidence you get post-menopause is another huge plus. Again, I'm sure a lot of this is due to the levelling out of those frightful fluctuating hormones. If someone suggests a film you don't want to see, it's far easier to say, simply, that no, you don't want to go. If you're threatened with going to a god-daughter's clarinet concert in a freezing church hall, no one will blame you if you declare that you are rather "too old for that sort of thing". At the same time, there are young lovers to be had, at least until sex becomes more "ouch!" than "aaah!". And, until the arthritis settles in for good, you can still dance and walk and leap about.

For me, post-50 is the golden age of life. The French have a saying: "Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait" - which, roughly translated, means "if only the young knew what life was all about, if only the old were able to put this knowledge into action". Post-menopause is exactly the time when both are possible. We really do have the best of all worlds.

Men get old like everyone else, but they don't have this clearly defined moment when everything falls into place. Nor do they have the huge hormonal changes, which can, when finally levelled out, finally give women stability and self-knowledge.

Most people have more money than they ever had before, and more leisure time. Thousands of post-menopausal women take on new careers or interests - joining book clubs, training to be counsellors. They experience an extraordinary second flowering after the menopause.

I prefer a slightly different state. My idea of post-menopausal pleasure is less overt. It's enjoying the company of much younger friends, of still being attractive (I hope) and being able to flirt with more confidence, of suddenly enjoying the luxury of giving things away rather than acquiring them, and of enjoying a more even temperament and being able at last to take the long view, rather than seeing everything as close-up and personal.

In fact, I'd recommend the menopause to any woman, and the sooner the better.

Make the most of your menopause

The average woman in the UK starts to go through the menopause at 51, and the process literally means the last menstrual period she will have.

Many women will experience a "climacteric" period for several years before the actual menopause begins, during which their hormone levels begin to fluctuate and their ovarian function begins to decline, causing erratic, heavy periods and other symptoms that include mood swings.

Many of the symptoms related to menopause are caused by the drop in levels of oestrogen and progesterone at this time.

Around 70 per cent of women will suffer hot flushes, anxiety, joint aches and palpitations while going through "the change". Other problems include loss of libido, night sweats, depression and dry skin. While some women experience few problems, others suffer severe physical and emotional changes.

Women are said to be "post-menopausal" when a year has elapsed since their last period. As hormone levels stabilise, either naturally or through Hormone Replacement Therapy, the symptoms disappear and many women feel better than they have in years.


Try hormone replacement therapy. Some studies have shown that it can increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease and it is not right for all women, but it can still be very effective in alleviating symptoms of the menopause. Consult your GP.

Take supplements. Calcium will boost bone health, while Vitamin E can help with night sweats and vaginal dryness. Special formulations such as Menopace may also be effective.

Try evening primrose oil. It has been used for centuries to treat menopause-related problems such as bloating, breast discomfort and irritability.

Stop smoking. It can aggravate hot flushes, while nicotine and other toxins in cigarettes interfere with the absorption of nutrients such as calcium that are vital during the menopause.

Reduce caffeine intake. It can trigger hot flushes and cause headaches.

Eat healthily. Foods that contain phytoestrogens - plant substances that mimic oestrogen - can help, and a good source is soya. Oily fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids that can protect the heart and Vitamin E-rich products such as wholewheat bread and cereals can reduce the symptoms of the menopause.

Exercise. Regular exercise will strengthen bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. In one study, half of menopausal women who followed a resistance-training programme for eight weeks said they had fewer hot flushes and headaches, were less stressed and had a higher sex drive.

Go herbal. Black cohosh has been shown to reduce hot flushes while red clover is a natural form of oestrogen.

Try acupuncture. One study found that monthly acupuncture treatments resulted in the same changes in hormone levels as HRT. The therapy also appears to be particularly useful in alleviating hot flushes, anxiety and depression.

Drink wine. A glass of red wine a day can help to reduce the risk of heart disease among menopausal women.

A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To promote and sell the Company...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Civil Engineering

    £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Business: This company is going thro...

    Tradewind Recruitment: KS1 & KS2 Teachers Required

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind Recruitment are currently working...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea