Yes, ladies, menopause can begin in the 40’s. And how to cope, working shifts.

Hot flushes, mood changes, menstrual changes and having trouble concentrating are synonymous with menopause. “But, I’m in my early 40’s. It can’t be menopause!”

Well, yes, it can. It’s called Perimenopause or menopause transition. Let’s take a look at the difference between perimenopause and menopause. For women working in emergency services, it’s important to know what stage you’re in, to best support your body (and mind).

Managing your energy levels, overcoming perimenopause symptoms and emotionally processing (and accepting) these body changes can be difficult for women who work night shifts. Long hours and on-the-job stresses tire the body, but it can be as equally emotionally taxing.

Unpredictable fluctuations in hormones can lead to stress, body image issues, and general emotional distress. Depression isn’t uncommon for women in this transformative era. Add to this the pressure of always having to be ‘on’, hyper-intense life or death situations and maintaining that ‘wife’ or ‘mother’ role at home, coping can be a challenge.

Let’s look at what’s happening in the body.

The timeline for perimenopause

According to Healthline, perimenopause happens before menopause. Although both are part of the same overall life transition, perimenopause and menopause have different characteristics.

Just to add one more term into the mix, premenopause is used to define women who experience NO symptoms. While hormonal changes may be occurring, there are no obvious changes in the body. But for the purpose of this article, we’re focusing on the more common of the two: perimenopause.

It happens in stages

Menopause doesn’t just start suddenly, overnight. It’s a transition that emerges in stages. Most women begin this journey between 45 to 55 years. However, perimenopause starts well before this – sometimes, 8-10 years ahead of menopause. This means, women begin to experience perimenopause from around 35 to 45 years.

The initial (biological) marker is a drop-in estrogen. As perimenopause progresses, the body produces less and less estrogen. This phase can last between a few months to up to four years as the body transitions into menopause when the eggs are no longer released.

Perimenopause symptoms to look for

Perimenopause (and onto menopause) are more than just night sweats. ‘Listen’ to your body and how it’s behaving. As estrogen levels drop, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety, mood swings & depression
  • Stress, fatigue & forgetfulness
  • Hair changes, weight gain & headaches
  • Dry skin, frequent urination & muscle aches
  • Changes in cholesterol levels

Remember, this is a natural process

Perimenopause marks the beginning of your body moving into a different phase of life. For those women who experience this earlier in their late 30s and early 40s, the emotional effects might mirror the severity of the physical.

We recommend tackling this lifecycle change with dual physical and mental support. With changes in mood, sexual function and body appearance, it’s important to talk to a mental health specialist to emotionally guide you through the journey.

The physical support required will depend on the side effects. As estrogen levels decline, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the ‘bad’ type) rises. This increases the risk of heart disease.

Losing estrogen is also linked to weaker bones, increasing the chance of osteoporosis. Targeting these detrimental issues early, in the perimenopause stage, is vital to good health in (and after) menopause.

Perimenopause usually lasts around four years…

Make sure you have the support you need

Self-care is an essential ingredient in your path through menopause. Regular exercise is a natural mood and weight loss remedy. Investing in relaxing activities before bed, such as yoga and meditation, can reduce or alleviate insomnia.

And of course, following the standard health must-dos: avoid alcohol and cigarettes, consume healthy foods, and exercise. Take your mental health just as seriously as your physical.

Emergency Services Health’s broad suite of coverage benefits includes acupuncture, complementary therapies, counselling and psychology – all of which support women transitioning into menopause.

Take acupuncture, for example. Studies have shown that acupuncture eases the unpleasant symptoms of menopause, such as insomnia, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.

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We understand the demands of front line work more than any other insurer. After all, we've been looking after the health and wellbeing of the police community for more than 85 years. Whether you're already a member or interested in becoming one, call us to find out how to get the most out of our cover and benefits. We're here to help. 

Please note: some articles on this website are compiled from material obtained externally. Although we make every effort to ensure information is correct at the time of publication, we accept no responsibility for its accuracy. Health-related articles are intended for general information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor. The views expressed in articles are not necessarily those of Emergency Services Health.