After we go through menopause, we're considered to be in a stage called postmenopause, and we retain this status for the rest of our lives. Postmenopause includes the years following menopause when a woman hasn't experienced a period for over a year. During this stage, menopausal symptoms tend to subside, but may continue for an average of four to five years. Fortunately, they also decrease in frequency and intensity and gradually over time, our hormone level start to stabilise. The good news is that once our hormone levels become stable, the symptoms that we have possibly been experiencing should start to fade away and we'll gradually start to feel more like ourselves again.
Some symptoms, however, continue in the postmenopausal phase. Issues with vaginal dryness and thinning genital tissue can continue as this relates to diminished oestrogen levels and we are still at risk of osteoporosis and heart disease due to low hormone levels too. Some of us may continue taking HRT for several years of our postmenopausal phase to support health, and this is a very individual decision.
It's the oestrogen that our ovaries produce that protects us from heart disease and osteoporosis (and it's what keeps our genital tissue supple) so HRT can be a real benefit for people at risk of these conditions, or who suffer from dyspareunia or painful intercourse. There are other ways to approach these risks, including diet and exercise and the use of topical lubricants. Continuing with the MenoShake in postmenopause will also help to ensure you're getting optimum nutrition which will help to maintain a healthy heart and strong bones.
Changes to our genital tissue can also put us at risk of developing UTIs and incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises can be a real help here, while there are also topical oestrogen treatments that can help maintain healthy tissue. These changes, while potentially embarrassing, are completely normal and happen to every woman. Your GP will have dealt with these issues before, so never feel that you can't approach your doctor for help with these changes – it's what they're there for.
After menopause ends, there is no longer a chance (or risk, depending on how you view it) of getting pregnant as our ovaries are no longer releasing any eggs. This means that those of us in a committed relationship can dispense with contraception, but we shouldn't assume we're clear of the risk of STIs. If we have new sexual partners or we find ourselves back on the dating scene then contraception (condoms and barrier methods) are still necessary as protection against disease. Sure, we may not be concerned with the effect on our fertility anymore, but we can still develop serious complications from undiagnosed and untreated STIs. Recently 3 cases of so-called antibiotic resistant “super gonorrhoea” have been identified in the UK, so protection from disease is something that should still be considered in any sexual encounter.
Hot flushes may persist infrequently and many postmenopausal women find that a random hot flush isn't concerning enough to warrant medication. When we say infrequent, we mean a couple of times a year. If you are experiencing more, consult your health practitioner as HRT or other forms of support can help reduce the frequency and severity of these troublesome episodes.
You may think that after menopause you can stop having smear tests or mammograms, but these health checks are still very important, and you should continue to keep these appointments. There aren't many upsides to getting older, but the money we save on sanitary products, painkillers, and chocolate for PMT is one major asset that we should see as treat money. Whether you spend this on the MenoShake, new shoes or your hobbies, make sure you're kind to yourself. We like to think that women don't get older, we just get more important!