Menopause was once a life stage of secrecy and mystery – whispered 'women's-only' business – but thanks to more research and greater awareness, today's midlife women can have a different experience to those of previous generations.
As Jean Hailes Executive Director Janet Michelmore explains, the experience of menopause, while sometimes challenging, can also be a positive one; an opportunity to look to the future and what's ahead.
"Back when Jean Hailes as an organisation was founded in the early 1990s, one of our primary purposes was to bring menopause as a topic into public conversation, and to provide support for midlife women in Australia," said Ms Michelmore. "It's now 25 years later and we've come a long way.
"Menopause often adds another layer of complexity to women's lives," she said. "It brings challenges and changes, and for some women it can also be an empowering and exciting time. Menopause can give women a chance to reassess their lives and health – work out what changes, if any, they need to make and begin the next phase of their life on their own terms.
"Certainly, many women are impacted by symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, increased anxiety or poor sleep. So it's important for women to know that help and support is available if they need it."
Jean Hailes hormone specialist Dr Sonia Davison said while many women did get "bothersome and sometimes severe symptoms of menopause", she also believed menopause could also be a "positive turning point" in women's lives. "Women today can often feel liberated and more confident in this phase, and some women just love not having to deal with their monthly periods," Dr Davison said.
"Menopause as an experience today is not just about looking back; it's actually a great opportunity to look to the future and set yourself up for good health in later life," she said. "When I talk to my patients about menopause, we're not just talking about hormones – we look at all the other parts of their lives and health as well; heart health, bone health, mental and emotional health, their libido and sex life."
Empower yourself with the knowledge that menopause is normal and natural. Watch the webinar Menopause: all you need to know to learn more.
Get the right advice. If you're experiencing menopausal symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, see your GP. If you don't feel properly 'heard' by your GP, find one who listens to you and your concerns.
Communicate openly and honestly with those around you. Menopause doesn't need to be a silent, lonely experience. If you feel comfortable, speak about your experiences (whether they are positive or negative) with your friends, family and colleagues. Your own stories may also help other women who are struggling alone with their midlife changes.
Share but don't compare. Menopause is an individual experience for every woman. So share your stories with your friends – shout them from the rooftops if you want! – but don't compare your menopause with your best friend's, or think that the advice that they received from their doctor also applies to you.
Even if you're breezing through menopause, put your health on the agenda and make an appointment with your GP. The hormonal changes that come with menopause have an effect on other areas of your health, such as your heart health and bone health.
If using natural therapies, see a qualified naturopath and tell your doctor about any supplements you may be taking.
Focus on the 'pause' in menopause and take some time out for you. Think about what you want from the next phase of your life, what's important for you and how you can achieve your goals. Consider talking to a counsellor or psychologist if you need help with this.
Learn more about menopause and how to manage midlife changes.