Self-management of symptoms of early menopause: Women’s experiences

The women we spoke with shared the different strategies they had developed for self-management of symptoms of early menopause (EM) (see Women’s experiences of symptoms of early menopause – Part 1 and Women’s experiences of symptoms of early menopause – Part 2). These included the way they dressed, sleeping arrangements, personal grooming, managing stress, coping with memory problems, and managing their external environment. Women also talked about dealing with symptoms such as hot flushes and mood with the help of diet and exercise (see Lifestyle changes to help manage early menopause).

Clothing

Many women mentioned changing the way they dressed to better cope with hot flushes or because of weight gain. For hot flushes, cotton and bamboo were seen as cooler and more ‘breathable’ than wool or synthetic fabrics. Women also emphasised the importance of layering and clothes that could easily be taken on and off, and preferred looser designs or short sleeves. As Eden said, ‘I haven’t worn a jumper in years, all I own are cardigans because I want to be able to whip them off quickly.’

Jacqueline described how she dressed changed after experiencing medically-induced EM.

A few women noted that they had also needed to buy different clothing after gaining weight. Natalie, who had needed to buy different clothing because of hot flushes and weight gain after a hysterectomy for endometriosis, said, ‘It’s a good excuse to go out and shop, but yeah, not so good on the budget!’

Kirsty described buying new clothes following spontaneous EM, partly because she had gained weight, and partly to feel ‘young.’

Sleeping arrangements

To deal with the impact of night sweats on their sleep, women described changing their pyjamas to looser fabrics, having lighter quilts or a separate quilt from a partner, avoiding flannel sheets or pyjamas, using ceiling fans, having ‘cool pillows’ or cool mats on their pillows, or having cool showers before bed or during the night.

Kate, who was experiencing menopausal symptoms as a result of hormone (adjuvant endocrine) therapy, described the different things she did to help manage night sweats.

Personal grooming

To cope with EM symptoms such as hot flushes, dry skin, and facial hair, some women described changing aspects of their grooming including having their hair cut short, moisturising their skin, and having facial hair growth waxed or plucked. Kirsty said that cutting her hair one summer after being diagnosed with spontaneous EM was one of her ‘biggest personal empowerment moments’, while Maree commented that ‘directly after [the bilateral oophorectomy] I noticed my skin is a lot drier now and I’m moisturising a lot more often.’

Yen-Yi noticed that hair on her face ‘increased a little bit’ after having breast cancer treatment and starting hormone (adjuvant endocrine) therapy. One of her doctors advised her to have it waxed.

Relaxation and rest

A number of women commented that trying to reduce stress and ensuring adequate rest and relaxation helped improve their overall wellbeing and cope better with EM symptoms. Apart from exercise (see Lifestyle changes to help manage early menopause), activities women found helped them to relax or manage stress included meditation, mindfulness, journaling, and spending time ‘in nature.’ Some women described changing the way they worked or the kind of work they did, or changing the way they socialised.

Anna, who experienced spontaneous EM, described the methods she used to try to ‘get enough rest.’

Jacqueline reflected on the changes she had made to her social life since early menopause.

Coping with ‘brain fog’ or memory problems

A few women talked about how they coped with difficulties with memory or concentration that they noticed during EM, often due to tiredness resulting from disrupted sleep and night sweats. For Alex, experiencing ‘chemo brain’ had prompted her to start ‘writing everything down,’ a habit she thought she might need to continue because she had heard that ‘menopause also can cause a bit of a foggy mind.’

Maree was frustrated by problems with memory and ‘keeping a train of thought’ and had developed tactics to manage these.

Other women, including Natalie, talked about rearranging their workdays to cope with cognitive impacts they associated with EM.

Natalie described the changes she had made to her work to cope with feeling mentally ‘fuzzy’ in the afternoons due to fatigue. 

Managing the external environment

Many women mentioned hot flushes being more difficult to cope with in warm environments and shared how they tried to avoid or manage such situations. A couple of women mentioned having a new appreciation for winter, when a hot flush could help them ‘thaw out’. Other tactics women described using included carrying a hand fan, having cold packs in the fridge at home that they could put on their skin during a hot flush, asking family members or work colleagues to turn heaters off or air conditioning on, avoiding crowded places or being in the sun, and drinking cold water.

Sylvia found hot flushes and night sweats challenging in warm environments and described what she did at home to ‘reduce the heat’. 

Fiona found she ‘couldn’t live without’ a hand fan to help manage hot flushes.

Further information

Talking Points (Women)

Talking Points (Health Practitioners)

Other resources