After the menopause
Postmenopause is the time after menopause, when a woman hasn’t experienced a period for over a year.
Postmenopause, you will no longer have periods but some women do continue to experience symptoms of menopause.
In postmenopause, symptoms of menopause may have eased or stopped entirely, but some women continue to have symptoms for longer.
The change in your body’s hormones however is a sign to keep looking after your health and wellbeing, and be mindful to listen to your body.
There can be an increased risk of some health conditions postmenopause, such as cardiovascular (heart) disease, osteoporosis (weak bones) and urinary tract infections (UTIs). So it is important to have a healthy diet and lifestyle, and to go for your regular cancer screenings such as cervical (smear test) and breast.
Your risk of cardiovascular disease increases when you have lower levels of oestrogen in your body, as a result of the menopause. This can cause the coronary arteries to narrow and increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease or stroke.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) offer support for women who experience problems with their heart health and who are going through the menopause.
It’s also important to exercise regularly, to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight.
Further information about the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease
Women who have been through menopause are at an increased risk of developing weak bones that may break more easily (osteoporosis) as a result of the lower level of oestrogen in the body.
You can reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis by:
- taking HRT – HRT can help to prevent your bones getting weaker, and is more effective the longer it is taken
- exercising regularly – including weight-bearing and resistance exercises
- eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and sources of calcium, such as low-fat milk and yoghurt
- stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol
- taking calcium and/or vitamin D supplements – if you’re concerned about this you can discuss this with your GP
You can find out more about exercising safely and choosing the right activity and movement for you if you have osteoporosis by visiting the Royal Osteoporosis Society website.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be common for women going through menopause. With lower levels of oestrogen in your body, your bladder and vaginal tissue may change, causing a range of symptoms and increased risk of urinary infections.
You can prevent UTIs occurring by:
- drinking plenty of water to help flush bacteria out of your urinary tract
- going to the toilet whenever you get the urge and allowing your bladder to empty as fully as possible
Speak to your GP if:
- you are experiencing recurring or chronic UTIs
They’ll be able to prescribe vaginal oestrogen to help reduce the chances of these recurring and will give you a prescription of antibiotics if required.
When you go through the menopause, the tissues of your vagina and urethra lose elasticity and you may experience sudden, strong urges to pee, followed by an involuntary loss of urine (urge incontinence). You can also experience the loss of urine with coughing, laughing or lifting (stress incontinence). This can also cause urinary tract infections to occur more often.
You can improve symptoms of urinary incontinence by:
Sexual wellbeing and intimacy
All women experience menopause differently, and many women experience changes in their sex life as they go through the menopause. You may have heard about menopause impacting women’s ‘libido’ or sexual desire.
Some women may experience problems during sex due to vaginal dryness and loss of elasticity. This can cause discomfort and slight bleeding during or after penetrative sex.
Speak to your GP if:
- you’re concerned about bleeding after sex
It can also be a sign of a health condition.
As with all other symptoms of menopause it’s important that you seek advice when you need it as there is a lot that can be done to help you. Don’t be afraid to speak to someone at your local GP practice as there are treatments that can help you get your sex life back on track.
Further information about sexual wellbeing and intimacy
Some women will experience weight gain during or after menopause.
During the menopause, the change in hormones can mean the body stores more fat and burns calories less efficiently. HRT can help with this but activity and exercise are the best way to increase your body’s ability to burn calories. Reducing stress can help too. Exercise, stress reduction, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, stopping smoking and a healthy diet all help with excess weight gain and other menopausal symptoms.
It is important however to ensure that weight gain isn’t caused by something else, such as an underactive thyroid, particularly if you have a family history of the condition. If this is the case, you should speak to your GP.
HRT and weight gain
There’s no scientific evidence that HRT causes weight gain. However, a small percentage of women may develop fluid retention with HRT – often it is mild and will settle in 4 to 6 weeks.