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.

HOW TO COPE

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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?