The menopause can bring about a number of symptoms; including insomnia, heavy periods, fluctuating moods and a lack of libido. The good news is that you’re unlikely to experience all of these issues; and that for many women, the extent of the symptoms won’t be too severe.
However, there is one symptom that you’re highly likely to encounter at some point during your menopause. It’s the most well-known (and dreaded) of the menopausal symptoms: hot flushes. They’re incredibly common; and for some females, they’re likely to continue for a number of years.
What Exactly Are Hot Flushes?
Hot flushes tend to come on quite suddenly. You’ll experience them as an abrupt, sometimes quite dramatic flush of heat that runs through the body, often felt most intensely in the facial region. A hot flush (or ‘flash’, as they’re sometimes known) can cause sweating and redness, not to mention a general sensation of discomfort and mild embarrassment!
They’re generally more prevalent at the start of the menopause. Some women report suffering several hot flushes throughout the day. However, as the menopausal transition continues, hot flushes do tend to settle into a more predictable pattern.
Hot Flushes and the Reduced Risk of Breast Cancer
When experiencing a hot flush, here’s something to keep in mind. Embarrassing and uncomfortable as they may be, recent research has now found links between hot flushes and reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Believe it or not, women who experience intense, regular hot flushes are up to 60% less likely to develop breast cancer. It’s certainly a good thing to remember when you’re experiencing one!
How to Cope with Hot Flushes
Alarming though hot flushes can be in the early stages of menopause, be reassured in the knowledge that they will eventually settle down into a more predictable rhythm. As you grow accustomed to experiencing them, it’s a good idea to pay attention to possible triggers. A very common trigger is stress; both physical and mental. Try to identify what causes you stress, and to experiment with different ways of reducing it. Some popular methods include:
- Addressing issues at work and reorganising a work/ life balance
- Practising yoga
- Holistic therapies, such as acupuncture or massage.
- A good diet and regular exercise
If you’re worried about experiencing a hot flush in public, remember that it is a common problem and that most people will be very sympathetic. It’s important to keep in mind that the menopause is not a taboo. Every woman goes through it, and chances are that many of the women around you will have already experienced the same. If you’re particularly worried, excuse yourself for a few moments, go somewhere quiet and allow yourself a minute or so to cool down.
When to Seek Medical Help
For most people, hot flushes are a minor inconvenience and are easily managed. However, if you find that your hot flushes are causing you significant problems on a day-to-day basis, speak to your GP. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is sometimes recommended to combat hot flushes; but as a general rule, it tends to be seen as a ‘last resort’, as it can increase the risk of stroke and other associated conditions.
Above all else, remember that the menopause is not a medical condition. It is a very natural part of your body’s development. Don’t be afraid to talk about your symptoms with friends, family and your GP, in order to identify a coping strategy that works best for you.