Menopause is the time of life when women cease having monthly periods and their ovaries have no more eggs to release.
In most women, menopause is experienced anywhere between the ages of 45 and 60, with the average age of menopause being around 51 years. A woman is considered to have reached menopause when she has not had a period in 12 months.
Early menopause can happen to some women due to health conditions. Women can also go into menopause after surgical procedures to remove their ovaries and uterus or as a side effect of some cancer treatments.
Menopause is not experienced in the same way by every woman. Many women can sail effortlessly through this phase of their lives with no noticeable signs or symptoms. Others find menopause manageable and only experience mild symptoms and discomfort. However, many women can experience more severe symptoms affecting their everyday lives. These symptoms can also last for several years and affected women may need more long-term support from their health care team.
What are the common symptoms of menopause?
Each woman experiences menopause differently, and some of their symptoms may include:
- Hot flushes or night sweats: a sudden flush of warmth spreading across the neck and chest with increased heart rate, fatigue, and mental fog
- Menstrual cycle changes: monthly periods may become frequent during perimenopause (the lead-up to menopause)
- Mood changes: an increase in experiences of low mood, depression, anxiety, anger, and sadness
- Muscle or joint pain: bodily aches and pains that are not caused by exercise or physical exertion
- Problems sleeping, wakefulness, restlessness, and lower energy levels the next day
- Vaginal and urinary symptoms: vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse due to the vaginal lining becoming thinner and dryer, and an increased need to urinate more often
Most women experience menopause symptoms as they approach the time their periods stop completely. Menopause symptoms can feel more intense in those who have had menopause induced by a surgical procedure or cancer treatment.
Symptoms of menopause can also vary in women from different cultures. Western women often experience more hot flushes and night sweats, but Asian women report more insomnia, mood disturbances and bodily aches and pains.
Practitioner Development UK Ltd. offers valuable training courses for nurses and other health clinicians that work with perimenopausal and post-menopausal women in a medical setting. Two courses that are of particular interest to nurse practitioners and first-contact nurses include:
A80 Gynae core skills for first contact practitioners: Online
This online, one-day fully interactive course is designed to help primary care practitioners, such as practice nurses, first contact nurses and advanced nurse practitioners, involved in the management and referral decisions for women with gynaecological issues.
The A80 Gynae core skills course has been created to raise awareness of common gynaecological presentations, including red flags that will need more urgent care and attention.
The course will give participants a solid grounding in how to:
- Develop knowledge and competency in prescribing emergency contraception
- Explore factors that influence urogenital conditions such as atrophy, pelvic organ prolapse, stress urinary incontinence, and consider management strategies available
- Explore sexual history taking and considerations in performing an intimate gynaecological assessment
- Explore the fundamental principles of Fraser Guidelines in clinical practice
- Integrate an evidence-based approach to diagnosing and managing these gynaecological disorders
The course will also cover considerations to take on board when performing an intimate gynaecological assessment, such as cultural, personal, comfort, issues and problems introducing a speculum.
A126 Caring for women around the menopause: Online
This is an online, fully-interactive four-hour introductory course in caring for women around the menopause stage of life. It is a course targeted toward advanced nurse practitioners, first contact nurses, practice nurses and allied health professionals, helping you build a sound foundation in providing care, understanding and support for a healthy transition through menopause.
The course aims to create greater awareness around how menopause can impact women’s life, health, and well-being and how to best support women as they face the hurdles presented during this time of life.
Taking part in the course will help you:
- Be aware of the other treatment options available for women
- Be mindful of the red flags and when to refer women for more specialist care and treatment
- Be more confident in counselling women regarding treatment choices around the menopause
- Gain increased knowledge of the signs and symptoms of the menopause
- Know where to signpost women to up-to-date information to aid their decision making
- Understand the risks and benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
The A126 course will also help you to understand the risks and benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and be aware of the other treatment options available for women going through menopause and dealing with often debilitating symptoms.