Don’t let hormones and health issues stop you from enjoying a full and happy life. We get advice from an expert about when to ask for help.
On International Women’s Day, we want to acknowledge all those women who are experiencing a women’s health issue that makes working and family life more difficult. From period complications and pregnancy to fertility struggles and menopause, women often face daily challenges that are not discussed or properly understood. The good news is that when the going gets tough, there is support and treatment available.
Below, Oxford Women’s Health Gynaecologist Janene Brown shares her insight and tips on women’s health issues and when it’s time to seek help.
As women, I don’t think many of us understand the impact our hormones have on us every day. Like it or not, there’s often a big biological contribution to the way we are feeling – whether that’s happy and on top of the world, or low and lacking energy.
After menstruation, oestrogen levels go up, putting us in a good mood, but 10 days before a period, higher levels of progesterone bring lower moods and other unwanted symptoms such as acne, breast tenderness, headaches and bloating. Some women experience none of these issues, while others may be affected so badly they require specialist input.
This doesn’t mean you have to be ruled by your hormones. There are plenty of things we can do to make ourselves feel good most days, from exercise and eating well to spending time with friends and doing more of the things that we enjoy.
There are plenty of things we can do to make ourselves feel good most days, from exercise and eating well to spending time with friends and doing more of the things that we enjoy
We also have to remember to treat ourselves with kindness and take time out when we need it. If you ever feel a women’s health issue is having a significant impact on how you live your life, you should seek help sooner rather than later from a specialist. Talking to friends and family, and even using sources such as social media, can help you to find the right person.
1. Heavy or painful periods
It’s normal for some girls to experience painful or erratic periods in their first few years of menstruation, however if you need to regularly take time off school or work because of period pain, it’s time to seek help. You should also visit your doctor if period pain or bleeding persists throughout the month or is severe. There can be a number of causes of troublesome periods, including endometriosis, which affects 10% of New Zealand girls and women.
With the incidence of infertility rising, there are more women in the workforce struggling to have a baby or going through the IVF process. This time of your life can be emotionally draining and exhausting, with a range of challenges impacting on work and family life. Surround yourself with support and take care of your mental wellbeing and overall health to help you get through this journey.
Being pregnant, having a new baby and all the social pressures that come with being a new mother can make you feel like you have to be superwoman. In any decision, including when and if you go back to paid work, make sure you factor in your own health and wellbeing as well as that of your young family. Remember, having a baby can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health, as well as your lifestyle.
4. Hormonal fluctuations
These changes do not affect everyone in the same way, but can have a bigger impact from around the age of 40. If you think the ups and downs of your monthly cycle are affecting your life too much, seek advice about what can be done and if you don’t get the answers you need, follow up with someone else. We are all wired differently and there are lots of treatment options and paths to take.
Staying within a healthy weight range is one of the best things we can do for ourselves as we age. Obesity is predicted to soon be the number one women’s health issue. It’s affecting women at a younger and younger age, and is associated with a huge number of health issues including cancers, infertility and heart disease. Keeping alcohol in its place is also very important. It’s not for treating stress or helping us through the day. For an excellent perspective on why we need to think about our relationship with alcohol, read The Wine O’Clock Myth by Lotta Dann.
As we go through perimenopause and menopause, we experience a range of changes to our bodies, which can come as a surprise. I really encourage women to educate themselves about menopause to help them through this time and know when to seek help. There is no need to be afraid of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT).
In fact, it offers a lot of benefits for our overall health and longevity, such as reduced risk of heart disease. During this time of life, it’s also important to take a good look at your lifestyle and prioritise those things that help us to age well – sleep, exercise, eating well, staying mentally agile and spending time with people who make us happy.
At Oxford Women’s Health, our friendly team of leading health professionals provide advice and treatment on issues such as endometriosis, heavy and painful periods, pelvic pain, fibroids, menopause and hormone issues. To make an appointment, speak to your General Practitioner or call (03) 379 0555.