International Menopause Day
October 18, 2021

International Menopause Day

By Natalie Hobbs

Let’s talk about menopause.  

So much more than hot flushes, there are actually more than 30 symptoms of menopause, and everybody experiences them (or some of them) differently. But most people, including those in the middle of menopause, don’t even realise some of the challenges they are facing are menopause related…and that’s because we don’t talk about it. Or not nearly enough. Modibodi is committed to normalising conversations about women’s health, including menopause.

MEMO Here in the UAE we are fortunate to have some amazing women providing invaluable support, resources, medical advice, much-needed humour  and most importantly building a community where women can feel heard, supported and know that they aren't alone.

Donna Howarth, founder of Middle East Menopause Organisation (MEMO) and a British Expat who calls Abu Dhabi home, is on a mission to raise awareness and  increase knowledge about menopause. Donna kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions we often hear asked when it comes to menopause. 

What is menopause?
Menopause is a normal, natural event that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. UK-based menopause specialist, Dr Louise Newson, comments that “the hormones estrogen and progesterone work together to regulate your menstrual cycle and also the production of eggs. During your perimenopause, the levels of these hormones fluctuate greatly, and it is often the imbalance of these hormones which leads to symptoms of the menopause occurring”. After 12 continuous months of no periods, you will have officially reached menopause and the phase beyond this point will be classed as post-menopause.

What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is where the majority of symptoms will begin, increasing in quantity and severity as we transition towards menopause and, ultimately, post-menopause. The North American Menopause society highlights that “the average age of menopause is 51.” This will differ around the world, with the average age of menopause for Emirati women being 48.

How old will I be when I start to go through perimenopause?
Perimenopause can begin as early as the late thirties - on average most women will start to see changes with their periods or experience symptoms from early to mid forties. Women who reach menopause before the age of 40 are classed as experiencing premature menopause. Between the ages of 40-45 is classed as early menopause. The causes of early and premature menopause can be caused by family history, chemotherapy, pelvic radiation, surgery and certain health conditions.

What symptoms will I experience?
There are over 30 symptoms related to menopause, with some saying there are upwards of 60. Each woman’s experience will differ, with some sailing through the whole process with great ease. Alternatively, others will suffer greatly with symptoms such as night sweats, hair loss, heavy and irregular periods, mental health issues, loss of confidence, feelings of impending doom, heart palpitations, weight gain, vaginal dryness and tender breasts, to name but a few.

Is there anything I can do to help reduce the symptoms?
An awareness and access to knowledge before this life stage occurs is absolutely key to ensure preparedness and an ability to make informed decisions on treatments, therapies, medications and supplements available along with lifestyle changes.

The majority of symptoms can be controlled with lifestyle changes, such as: good nutrition, quality sleep, good gut health, enjoyable exercise and movement, stress management using mindfulness and meditation, supplementing with natural remedies, using complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and homeopathy etc. 

Body-Identical Hormone Therapy (HRT/HT) is a valid choice during menopause and has proven to be very successful at controlling symptoms, offering protection towards osteoporosis and possibly heart disease in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. HRT/HT allows the individual to reclaim a good quality of life, stability and a sense of control. Not all women will choose this route, it’s a decision that is personal to the individual and her beliefs. A combination of hormone therapy, lifestyle changes and other therapies can work very well.

What will Post-Menopause look like?
For the majority of women, menopause can feel very overwhelming. But, it is also a period of rediscovery and renewed vigour - a chance to look to your '3rd Age' (we live approximately a third of our lives in post-menopause) with refreshed eyes, an opportunity to fulfil life-long goals, a chance to rewrite your life’s script.

Do not be afraid to try something new or to step outside of your comfort zone to experience a new beginning or adventure. Some women feel liberated and empowered as they enter post-menopause as there are no periods, no risks of pregnancy and hopefully, symptoms will have reduced too.

Do reach out to other women and feel the strength and support of others. Remember, you are never on your own. Menopause will affect us all - regardless of our beliefs, culture and ethnicity.

Where can I go for support?
Seeking the services of a professional who is fully conversant in current menopause guidelines (as per North American Menopause Society, British Menopause Society and The International Menopause Society etc) is imperative to ensure the correct advice is provided.

If you are experiencing changes with your periods, things don’t feel right, or you begin to feel overwhelmed with your symptoms, please reach out to support groups like Middle East Menopause Organisation for direction towards sympathetic menopause consultants, factual information and the support of other women. 

Interviewed above, Donna Howarth, Founder of Middle East Menopause Organisation. MEMO is a menopause advice & support group based in Abu Dhabi, covering the UAE, Middle East & beyond. 

Abu-Dhabi based journalist Ann Marie McQueen's HotFlashInc Instagram account and weekly newsletters are full of information, humour and helpful resources. Join the thousands of women from around the world who subscribe to her global digital magazine, where each week she covers all things menopause - the latest research, public policy, tech, business, podcasts, products and more.

Ally Collishaw, Physiotherapist and Clinical Director at Optimal Therapy Dubai. Ally specialises in women's health and has set up a menopause support group to support ladies through this time of change.

Dr Fiona Rennie at Genesis Healthcare Centre Dubai. During her 15 years in Dubai, Dr Rennie has become an integral part of many women's general health and is well renowned for her support of women going through menopause. 

Modibodi’s extensive range of reusable leak-proof underwear and apparel isn’t just for protection from periods.

Those approaching menopause often choose our products to help manage irregular cycles, unpredictable spotting, changes in discharge and the bladder leaks which can become more common as pelvic floor muscles weaken with hormonal changes.

From our lighter absorbencies for spotting and light flow through to our most absorbent Maxi-24hrs for heavy bleeding and frequent bladder leaks, there’s a Modibodi to manage the changes and challenges of both perimenopause and menopause.