The hidden suffering called the transition: ‘I no longer functioned’


“I always thought that women who complained about menopause were whiners. The occasional hot flash, I thought, how bad can it be? Until I experienced it myself and was shocked. Bizarre what hormones can do.” Heidy Amory (55) entered menopause about ten years ago, and is still awake at night. It started with heavy bleeding, she says. “It was not normal how much blood I lost. It is that I was on vacation at the time, otherwise I would not even have been able to work. And what do you say to your boss? It made me weak for months. because I had no idea this could be part of the transition. “

After her last period (the so-called menopause), Heidy also suffered from enormous mood swings. “One day I couldn’t see it anymore, the next day there was nothing wrong. It took a while before I realized that it was hormonal. The same goes for the fears that suddenly came over me. I didn’t dare to get up anymore. driving the highway, spent half the night worrying about the strangest things.

Heidy kept herself up for a long time and didn’t want to let anyone know what was her problem. “I thought I was acting up, but it felt like a rollercoaster was racing through me. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, started avoiding things, became insecure, started to doubt myself very much. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. over again, I thought. You don’t want to be dismissed as a whiner. “

Only recently did she know that all those things are part of the menopause. “I wish I had known that sooner; that would have saved me a lot of suffering. It helps so much if you know where your complaints come from and that you are not the only one struggling with it. There is really too little talk about it.”

Heidy is one of the more than 1.5 million Dutch women between the ages of 40 and 60 who experience menopause every year. More than 80 percent of them suffer from hot flashes, palpitations, sleeping problems, concentration problems, anxiety attacks and / or depressed feelings. In one in three women, these complaints are so severe that they end up at home.

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‘It’s a hormonal tsunami’

The latter was not the case with Monique Steenvoorden (57), but that was close. “It’s one thing, I’m honest about it. It’s underestimated. You’re being drained, it’s a hormonal tsunami. I’m lucky that I’m self-employed and could manage my own time. If I had still worked in the corporate world. I wouldn’t have taken it. “

Her menopause started at the age of 44 with palpitations, sweating and a short fuse. “In the beginning you do not realize what is happening. I was very tired, had a headache, muscle aches as if I had the flu and gained pounds. And every period was a bloodbath. In the last few years I had double sanitary towels at night. in and even then I left traces of blood in the hallway when I walked to the toilet. “

To reduce her symptoms, she tried everything from alternative to regular, but nothing helped. “I really had to wait until it got less. I still don’t sleep well, and I’m always hot, but luckily it is finally getting less now.”

At 38th in the transition

Marcelle Meesters (50), together with hospital manager Mirjam van ‘t Veld, wrote a practical guide for menopausal women, Transition from head to toe, in which they investigate exactly what the menopause is, what you can do yourself and what treatments there are. They both entered the menopause young and could hardly find good information about it. “I had just become a mother at the age of 38 and after that I immediately entered the menopause”, says Marcelle.

“I had a short fuse, mood swings, hot flushes, slept worse, my period no longer started normally. It was first classified under the heading of depregnation, later doctors thought it was due to my thyroid gland, but after two years it turned out to be real. The transition. It got worse and worse, it creeps in. Eventually my candle burned out and I ended up at home with the stamp burn-out. I no longer functioned. “

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At one point she went to a gynecologist to be educated about the use of hormones. Because your body produces less and less female sex hormone during the menopause, it can help to supplement this. There is a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and thrombosis in women who have been taking the hormones for more than five years, but the risks were so small in Marcelle’s case that she decided to go for it.

“I started with those hormones and within two weeks I was there again. A world of difference. I was cured of my so-called burn-out in one fell swoop. What a panacea, it really helped me out. myself, recognized myself again. “

Marcelle thought she already knew quite a bit about the transition, but a whole new world opened up for her while writing the book. “I fell from one surprise to another. For example, I did not know that your pelvic floor muscles can relax during the menopause, which can lead to incontinence problems, and apparently you have to eat smaller portions because your metabolism slows down, otherwise you will gain weight. men too, although that is rare. That was all new to me. “

‘You don’t have to suffer’

She also found that the breathlessness she was experiencing was not because of her hay fever but because of severe asthma developed during the menopause. “Knowing where your complaints come from already saves a lot. That is one of the reasons why we wrote the book: sharing knowledge. The other reason is breaking the taboo, because there is still too little serious talk about the transition. While it happens to every woman at some point in her life. Fortunately, there are also many women who do not suffer from it or less. For the unfortunate people who have a very hard time: you don’t have to suffer. There is really something to do about it. to do.”

Play yourself healthy

Cardiologist Janneke Wittekoek has devised an interactive game that should encourage menopausal women to live healthier lives. Because the menopause also affects your heart and your circulatory system, Wittekoek explains. “Our heart and blood vessels are reasonably protected by the female hormone estrogen, but as soon as that disappears during the menopause, there is an enormous acceleration of cardiovascular deterioration. And the higher your blood pressure, the more you suffer from menopausal symptoms.” In her practice she sees the consequences of this every day. “We can prevent a lot of misery by paying a little more attention to preventive measures.”

Wittekoek herself usually starts with her patients by getting the risk factors for heart complaints in order, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Via the game, Greenhabit Heartlife, which will be launched on Monday, this can be done in a fun way. Users are given five small assignments every day for three months on nutrition, exercise, positive thinking, relaxation and happiness, with the aim of bringing about lasting healthy behavioral change. Weekly challenges and rewards provide extra motivation to keep up the good behavior, is the idea.

Influencing the brain

Wittekoek himself appears in the game as an avatar cardiologist who explains things like estrogens, cholesterol and menopausal symptoms. “In my doctor’s office I can treat cholesterol and blood pressure in someone with heart complaints, but you can’t influence the brain for a moment. This game helps enormously with that. With all the scientific knowledge we have, it is actually crazy for words that I have to sit down. Wait until someone is in front of me with an imminent heart attack, while in many cases it is so easy to prevent. 90 percent of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide, can be prevented by improving your lifestyle. “

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