'I experienced mood swings and joint pain'
Case study 2: Fiona Hedigan
Joint pain, mood swings, the odd night sweat and some hot flushes - the run-up to the menopause brought a variety of classic symptoms to Fiona Hedigan's door in Sandymount, Dublin.
"In Ireland we don't really talk about our health or make a fuss about it," observes Hedigan (56), a clinical aromatherapist who formerly worked as a business consultant.
Over the years, Fiona created a range of botanical oil blends to help with clients' health and emotional needs - including symptoms of menopause such as anxiety and sleep disruption.
For Fiona herself, the first warning signs of 'The Change' came in her mid-40s.
Like many women, the mother-of-two adult children says she really only recognised what was happening in hindsight.
"Everything started with a perimenopause when I was 46 or 47," she says. "I noticed from about my mid-40s, there was a slight drop in confidence and some irritability." At the time, Fiona says that she attributed the symptoms to the stresses of day-to-day life.
Her mother passed away when Fiona was 46 and, as she has always been self-employed and working full-time, her life is busy.
"My life was very full and busy and I attributed certain symptoms to that, but in hindsight, I think the mood swings and the drop in confidence were because of menopause," she recalls, adding that she also had occasional hot flushes and night sweats.
"I experienced mood swings, some hot flushes, and a lot of joint pain.
"I developed problems with my knees which I had never had before.
"This started very suddenly when I was 49.
"I also experienced low-level anxiety in little things that normally would not bother me."
To help counteract all of this, she learned how to meditate and started exercising more, despite the joint pains.
She also made a strong point of spending more time out in nature:
"I love walking and I love plants so I'm really happy out in nature or in a garden and I find it hugely beneficial," she says.
Her periods stopped the month before her 50th birthday and never came back. When she was 54 the symptoms stopped.
"Occasionally I still feel a little hot but nothing significant," she reports, adding that she and her friends were very open with one another about the effects of menopause.
"I think women are starting to talk about it now - that's changing.
"My mother was always very open about everything. I remember her saying 'open all the doors and windows, I'm getting hot!'
"I remember her face would be going bright red with the heat but she was never embarrassed about it.
"I grew up in a home where you weren't embarrassed about things like that - but I don't think that's the norm.
"A lot of people can be negative about the menopause, because they feel it's a sign of ageing," says Fiona, who takes a much more pragmatic approach to it all - in fact she recently launched a brand of botanical oil blends Flora Plus Fiona and a new website, floraplusfiona.com.
"You are going to age, and you have to make the best of yourself. That's how you should live - menopause is just another chapter in your life."
Health & Living