Jane is 51 years old and is married with 2.5 children. Her menopausal symptoms started in her late forties but became worse as she entered her early fifties. She doesn’t really talk about her menopause – except at the hairdressers – because she feels embarrassed and doesn’t want to complain. She still finds her husband attractive but runs a mile when he asks her to come to bed. In fact, she’d rather sleep in her car with the air con on full blast than share a bed with him.
She works part-time at the local school but is thinking of quitting work altogether as her symptoms are really affecting her and she needs more time to help her mum look after her dad. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, and having dinner with her friends, though she doesn’t always have the energy to do any of her favourite things anymore. She has a reasonably healthy diet and likes the occasional glass of wine with dinner.
At the moment, she’s overwhelmed with hot flushes during the day, and wakes up at least once or twice a night in a sheet-soaking sweat. She left the milk out this morning and put her keys in the fridge but launched into a tirade against her teenage kids because surely only they would do something so silly.
Jane is our average menopausal woman.
With so many symptoms and so many individual and personal factors at play, it is impossible for two women to have the exact same story. That said, of course, there are averages. We’ve already mentioned a few: the average age for the menopause is 51, the average menopausal woman is married with 2.5 children, and the most common symptoms include vaginal dryness, loss of libido, hot flushes, night sweats, and anxiety.
Likewise, what influences the severity of symptoms differs from woman to woman. Some women can handle a couple of glasses of wine a night at dinner, while for others even a sip would result in a hot flush so fiery that her loved ones might consider making a call to the local fire service. Nonetheless, the common triggers include alcohol, caffeine, synthetic fibres, tight clothing, and stress. Similarly, common remedies of the menopause that seem to work well for most women are keeping hydrated (with water!), weight-bearing exercises, a change in diet to focus on the most important nutrients, and of course, HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Sound like you?
And there’s more! The average woman (our Jane, for example) will put on about 2.3 kg (5 lbs) of weight and her symptoms will last on average around 7 years (though some studies say that hot flushes last about 3-5 years before fading away). That said, on average, women are on HRT for up to 5-years but recent research indicates that there is no upper age limit for low dosages of HRT.
These are just the facts, the statistics, based on numerous studies (that, pinch of salt, may not always be the most accurate)! If you’re thinking, ‘But I’m nothing like Jane!’ remember: we did make her up. It’s not abnormal to not be average, it’s just a general benchmark. Even our very own Meg Mathews didn’t experience the most common symptom of them all, hot flushes! Whatever your experience is, it’s always good to know what the average is, just don’t let it worry you.