Where to begin?
What a topic but it happens to 1000’s of women with learning disabilities (and those without of course) and it’s more likely to go undetected in this population. We know the menopause commonly starts between the ages of 45 – 55 but perimenopause can start up to 10 years prior to the menopause happening.
Now this got me thinking (dangerous I know) but often I talk about how early onset dementia is more common in the learning disability population; Age groups most at risk are:
- People with Down’s syndrome aged 40 +
- People with Learning disabilities aged 50 +
And not forgetting, ladies with Downs’s syndrome may experience the menopause earlier than the general population.
So, I guess when looking at signs, symptoms and potentially exploring the possibility of someone having dementia - we should also be asking “Could the lady actually be experiencing perimenopause or indeed menopausal symptoms?”
To help identify signs and symptoms I thought it would be helpful to highlight a few things to look out for, so here goes (Wait for it! There’s quite a list):
- Irregular periods - As ova production in ovary reduces oestrogen production becomes erratic leading to Irregular periods
- Hot Flashes - Due to blood vessels dilation near the skin as a result of reduced estrogen
- Night sweats - Due to hot flashes
- Reduced sex drive
- Vaginal dryness
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Low mood or anxiety - Perimenopause has increased risk of depression
- Low bone density - oestrogen is involved in maintaining equilibrium of calcium in bone
Ref: Menopause - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
In my humble opinion, there needs to be more educational support for ladies with learning disabilities to understand the female reproductive system and further information to enable them to fully understand and recognise the signs and symptoms of both perimenopause and menopause themselves. Training, needs to be offered and shared with support staff so they are able to recognise early warning signs and share this information with the relevant clinicians (with consent from the lady in question, of course!)
There is some amazing support for women experiencing the menopause, one of which is an organisation called Balance. They have template letters to help you approach your GP in relation to the possible use of HRT amongst other things. Definitely worth a visit Balance - Homepage (balance-menopause.com) and the Rock My Menopause website who have some great videos, information leaflets and podcasts too Rock My Menopause - Menopause Information
It is possible to live well whilst experiencing the menopause with the right help and support so stay positive and think “I’m going to #RockMyMenopause “