Tue 09, Jun 2020
Brisbane physiotherapist, host of The Pelvic Health Podcast and ambassador for Always Discreet, Lori Forner, shares her insights on menopause.
Menopause isn’t spoken about or researched enough. Even the word is surrounded by confusion – what happens, when, and why exactly? Menopause marks the last period or menstrual cycle a woman has. It often is used to mean the lead-up to the final period, but this time is actually perimenopause. Perimenopause is the years leading up to menopause where there is a drop in female sex hormones, namely oestrogen, often in an irregular manner.
One of the lesser-known symptoms of menopause and perimenopause is an increased difficulty with bladder and bowel control. Most women are too embarrassed about leaking that they hide it from their friends, and even their doctor, and they stop doing activities they love like socialising with friends, continuing or starting exercise, and playing with their grandchildren or pets
Hormones and continence
Oestrogen keeps the nerves, blood supply, connective tissue and muscles of the bladder and bowel healthy and robust. There is a long-standing belief that low levels of oestrogen in perimenopause and menopause contribute to issues with bladder control. While less is certain about the effects of oestrogen on bowel tissues, pelvic floor muscles play an important role in both bladder and bowel control. The lack of oestrogen also negatively affects these muscles, making them weaker.
The stronger women are before changes in life that affect muscle strength, like pregnancy, childbirth and/or menopause, the better. Don’t wait until you reach menopause!
Find more information on menopause from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health jeanhailes.org.au.
This story was first published in Bridge magazine. Subscribe to Bridge online.