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The menopause transition - out of our comfort zone

Presenter Natasha Mitchell, Jean Kittson and Professor Martha Hickey discuss all matters menopause in the final program in the ABC Radio National's Women's Health Series that aired on 28 June 2014, about menopause.   

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Jean Kittson - comedienne and author 

Jean KittsonWhen Jean Kittson hit menopause, she was amazed at what she didn't know. Given that 1.5 million Australian women are menopausal at any one time, why, she wondered, was menopause so little discussed and then only in hushed tones?

So Jean set out to write the sort of book she felt she needed to read: 'An easy-to-read book full of useful information that didn't make you want to put on an old chenille dressing-gown and a pair of comfortable slippers and throw yourself under a marching band.'

You're Still Hot to Me is a chatty - sometimes robust - conversation between women and with some of Australia's top experts. 

Professor Martha Hickey, BA (Hons) MSc (Clin Psych) MBChB FRANZCOG MD 

Dr Martha HickeyProfessor Martha Hickey is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Melbourne and Adjunct Professor of OBGYN at Yale University, CT. In her clinical practice she runs the menopause services at The Women's Hospital, Melbourne. She initially trained as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK and then qualified in medicine in 1990 from the University of Bristol. She completed her specialist training in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2000 at Imperial College School of Medicine, London. She then moved permanently to Australia.

Professor Hickey is an experienced clinician researcher in gynaecology. Her main areas of interest are abnormal uterine bleeding and menopause. In the field of menopause she runs a large clinical service, offering unique multidisciplinary care for women with menopausal symptoms following a cancer diagnosis. She has clinical and research interests in the development of non-hormonal treatments for menopausal symptoms and in the mechanisms of abnormal bleeding in women using sex steroids for contraception or HRT. 

About the menopause

The menopause literally means ‘the pause in menstruation’ and relates to the time a woman has her last period. For most women, this is between the ages of 45 and 55 years, but sometimes, though rarely, occurs as early as 30 years.

It is more helpful to think about the menopause transition which is the time things atart to change, such as having hot flushes or your period starts to change until a year after your final menstrual period. This may be around for to seven years where things may be quite unstable for some women. 

However, the end of periods is only one sign of many changes happening in the body both before and after this time. Symptoms such as hot flushes, tiredness, joint and muscle pains, depression and an irregular cycle may occur years before your periods stop.

The menopause and all its associated changes are due to the ovaries ceasing to function. It is not known why this happens, but, as the ovaries produce hormones vital to the health of many body tissues, the replacement of these hormones can help you avoid the more serious side effects of the menopause, such as osteoporosis.

The three most important hormones produced by the ovaries are oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. After the menopause, oestrogen and progesterone are no longer produced by the ovaries, although a small amount of oestrogen may still be produced by fat tissue. Many of the body’s tissues need oestrogen to stay healthy. Now that women are living much longer (e.g. 30 to 40 years after the menopause), longterm oestrogen deficiency problems such as hip fracture, dowager’s hump, discomfort at intercourse and incontinence are becoming more common towards the end of life. Such problems obviously reduce quality of life but may be preventable.

For more information see Menopause Basics

Content updated 28 June 2014 


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