An Ipswich menopause guru has shared the most commonly asked questions she receives and busted some myths in the process.

In honour of October being menopause awareness month, Melissa Neisler Dickinson of the Menopause Vitamin Company has shone a spotlight on the misconceptions that many people still have.

According to the NHS, most women and people with uteruses will experience the menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. During this time, their periods will stop due to lower hormone levels.

However, some can experience an early menopause at younger than 45.

Mrs Neisler Dickinson started the menopause at 49. However, she said she may have started the menopause before then, for the combined contraceptive pill she was taking could have been masking her symptoms.

Ipswich Star: Melissa Neisler Dickinson is determined to use her experience to help other women. Image: LEE HAYES PHOTOGRAPHYMelissa Neisler Dickinson is determined to use her experience to help other women. Image: LEE HAYES PHOTOGRAPHY (Image: LEE HAYES PHOTOGRAPHY)

The pill contains artificial versions of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are produced naturally in the ovaries.

The NHS states that the combined pill may “mask or control menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats.”

“I had to come off the pill because I was getting migraines,” explained Mrs Neisler Dickinson. “It was like night and day, the change from the person I was.

“All I knew was that older women had hot flushes. That’s all I thought it was. I had no idea about the psychological changes that would happen – the anxiety, the lack of direction, drive and motivation.

“It all just hit me. I thought I was having some sort of mental health issue.”

Being prescribed HRT (hormone replacement therapy) helped a lot.

However, Melissa stressed that the treatment is not a blanket cure for all symptoms. There are also a variety of health reasons why someone may not be able to take HRT, or might choose not to.

Melissa spent a great deal of time researching the vitamins and minerals which could help with her other symptoms.

Determined to share her knowledge, Melissa founded The Menopause Vitamin Company, working with a leading UK nutritionist and manufacturer to launch an all-in-one menopause supplement.

Menopause Myths: Melissa’s top three misconceptions

Myth: Menopause happens suddenly

Response: The transition to menopause is a gradual process. This phase is called perimenopause, and that can last for years before periods stop.

Myth: Menopause only affects reproductive health.

Response: Menopause impacts more than just the ability to have children. It can affect bone density, heart, and brain health, so overall well-being is very important.

Myth: Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the only solution

Response: HRT is one very effective option, but there are also non-hormonal treatments and lifestyle changes that can help manage menopausal symptoms, especially for those that are unable to take hormones.

Commonly asked questions

What are the most common symptoms of perimenopause /menopause?

Menopausal symptoms can vary from person to person, but common ones include hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, anxiety, lack of motivation, brain fog, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, stiff joints, and changes in sleep patterns. Not every person will experience all these symptoms, and their severity can differ.

What are the available treatments for perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms?

There are several options for managing symptoms. These include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), non-hormonal medications, lifestyle changes (like diet and exercise), and complementary therapies such as supplements, meditation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and acupuncture. The choice of treatment depends on individual preferences and health considerations.

How do I know if I am in perimenopause or menopause, and is there a blood test available?

There isn't a single definitive blood test to diagnose which stage you are at. However, doctors can use blood tests to measure certain hormone levels that may provide insights into your stage of menopause, but as our hormones fluctuate these can be inaccurate so most healthcare professionals diagnose by the symptoms that you are experiencing.