Half of the women in the UK right now are in the menopause.
Yes, you heard that correctly, 50%.
In the middle of a woman’s life, her body will change yet again. Another chapter to face where our hormones get to wreak havoc on our lives *sigh*. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the story of the menopause, and until recent years it has been portrayed as something we shouldn’t really discuss... (which is absolute nonsense).
As the world wakes up to realise this is a matter that should be talked about and should be taken as seriously as other hormone deficiencies, we are here to let you know you are not alone if you feel ‘out of control’ and that you are ‘losing it’. Menopause advocate, Davina McCall, once stated ‘I used to think menopause was an age thing and now I realise it’s a woman thing.’ Women in midlife are no longer unheard. This happens to all women and will no longer be kept in the dark.
We understand women during this time have hot flashes, night sweats, feel like their brain is turning into cotton wool, and might even be suffering hair loss.
The hair loss that occurs when you are experiencing perimenopause, menopause, or post menopause, is most likely linked to the changes that your body is going through.
Women site a thinner ponytail, distinctively wider partings, scalp more visible, hair not growing as long as it used to, more hair collecting in their hairbrush/ bathroom, sparse patches around the front hairline or just general thinning over the entire scalp.
It’s time to find out what is really going on...
What is perimenopause/ menopause?
To start with, let’s go back to the basics. When your periods stop permanently and you can no longer get pregnant (basically we run out of eggs), it is known as the menopause. The cause? Your hormone levels are reducing, and it typically happens between the ages of 45 and 55. In the UK, the average age for entering the menopause is 51, but it is common in younger women too. 1 in 100 women under 40 years have an early menopause.
Medical reasons can mean that sometimes women experience menopause earlier. This could be natural, or it could be linked to having cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or having a hysterectomy (uterus removed) or an oophorectomy (ovaries removed), or due to a genetic reason. And even taking all these reasons into consideration, it can sometimes be unknown.
Before your periods stop, there is a stage known as the perimenopause. An additional chapter that is hardly spoken about despite being the beginning of this tremendous shift in a woman’s life. You may start to show signs of anxiety, brain fog, mood swings, hot flashes, and irregular (heavy) periods. Women frequently worry they are showing signs of early onset dementia, when in fact they are in the perimenopause! The change in your periods is typically the first sign that you have entered perimenopause. This stage can take years before your periods stop completely (not had a period for 12 months), and once they do you are officially in the menopause.
Now we’re not going to say this with rose tinted glasses on, the menopause can be mentally and physically draining for women. Impacting life, relationships, and even work. For decades, discussing the menopause has been a taboo. Mainly due to an enormous amount of misconceptions and misinformation about treatments, women’s health has been far worse during menopause than it could have been. As life expectancy has increased it means we now often spend at least one third of our lives being postmenopausal! The world is finally embracing this moment in our lives and there are numerous things you can do to help symptoms.
If you find yourself suffering, we advise speaking to your GP about treatments and medicines you can take to alleviate symptoms.
Now we’ll delve into what those symptoms can look like.
Symptoms of the menopause
A huge 90% of women get menopausal symptoms, with 60% of women reporting brain fog and sadly 10% of women quit their job because of it.
Remember menopause is unique to each individual woman, and you may be feeling many of these symptoms or might not feel any at all.
Mental health symptoms
- Mood changes: low self-esteem, anxiety, low mood, mood swings
- Brain fog: problems with concentrating and your memory
- Physical symptoms
- Hot flushes: sudden feelings of hot or cold in your face, neck and chest which cans make you feel dizzy
- Difficulty sleeping: could result in night sweats and make you feel tired and irritable during the day
- Heart palpitations: when your heart beating suddenly becomes noticeable
- Headaches/Migraines: worse than usual
- Hair loss: when your hair feels thinner and grows slower
- Muscles aches and joint pains
- Change in body shape and weight gain
- Skin changes: including dry and itchy skin
- Reduced sex drive
- Vaginal dryness and pain: itching or discomfort during sex
- Recurrent UTIs (urinary tract infections)
Hair loss during menopause
Research linking hair loss and menopause isn’t extensive as such, yet there have been numerous reports of women finding hair changes during menopause, which includes hair thinning, hair falling out in the shower/when brushed, drier feeling hair and also greasy roots. This menopausal hair loss can occur on the front, the sides and sometimes the top of your head.
When considering how long these symptoms will last, it can be months or years, and it can change with time. For instance, night sweats and hot flashes may improve, and then you may develop low mood and anxiety. Please don’t freak out though, while hair loss during menopause is common, it’s not forever.
You might find yourself asking, ‘why is this happening to me?’ Well, as we (women) age our ovaries start to decrease the volume of sex hormones that are typically produced. As the body responds to hormone level fluctuations, an array of physical changes can occur including hair loss. This type of hair loss (menopausal) is related to a decrease in the production of oestrogen and progesterone. These also happen to be the hormones that keep your locks healthy, the ones that make your hair grow faster and aid it staying in your head longer.
During the menopause, your body produces less of these two hormones, meaning your hair may start growing slower and for some of us it will become thinner. In fact, this decrease causes an increase in the activity of male sex hormones (known as androgens). Sadly, these cause hair follicles on our heads to shrink, which leads to hair loss (weep). They also increase facial hair growth during menopause (double weep). For those women whose hair follicles are sensitive to another hormone (big word alert) dihydrotestosterone (DHT; vital to sexual development of males), hair thinning during menopause is usually slightly more pronounced.
Remember, there can be many reasons why you might be suffering hair loss. So even if you are menopausal the hair loss you are experiencing could be something else...
Genetics: Female pattern baldness is natural ageing for some women.
Stress: People going through stressful times can find hair falling out a few months after.
Medical conditions: Viruses can trigger hair loss, as can problems with your immune system, or infection on the scalp like ringworm.
Medication and radiation: Treatments for cancer, arthritis, depression and other conditions can cause hair loss.
Other hormonal changes: Pregnancy, childbirth or thyroid problems.
Hairstyling: Tight ponytails and braids that pull on your hair follicles can cause traction alopecia, another type of hair loss. Additionally, it could be the use of heat damaging tools like straighteners and hairdryers.
Treatments for menopausal hair loss
Firstly, if you are undergoing any sort of hair loss, during any period of your life, especially if it’s sudden, we highly recommend chatting to your GP about it. They can then tell you what the best approach is you can take, particularly if you are on other medical treatments already i.e. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Some treatments/lifestyle changes for those women suffering menopausal hair loss can include...
Hair loss medication: Hair lotion or shampoo containing minoxidil is the main proven treatment
Eating a healthy diet: It’s essential to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet where you can get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs with every meal. Foods which will keep your hair healthy include those rich in iron, folic acid, vitamin D and fatty acids.
Reducing stress in your life: Extreme shock and anxiety can sometime cause hair loss. Keep managing your stress levels by introducing relaxation techniques into your life such as yoga.
Making sure you regularly exercise: This isn’t a proven treatment of menopause yet, however it can help stress levels and stay a health weight.
New hair style: Some hair stylists advise shortening the length of your hair, as it adds volume, reduces weight of hair and can help hide problem areas.
GLOWWA Hair Food: Our HAIR FOOD vitamins provide daily nutritional support for longer, healthier hair growth, improved condition, and shine. After consistent regular use our customers have reported healthy hair growth to reduced shedding. Results can often be noticed as little as 12 weeks, with optimum results being achieved from consistent ongoing use.
Remember you are not alone. Menopause is just another challenge for us girls to face and overcome. Talk about your experiences with others and embrace it as much as you can. See it as an opportunity for new beginnings and adventures.