Breast Care for the Menopausal Woman and Beyond
Post Menopause can mean different things to different women. But for many women once they are through their peri-menopause it can seem like sailing into a calm sea after a rough passage through very stormy water.
Throughout the menopausal transition the changes in a woman’s hormones can affect her breasts. When a woman reaches menopause itself (the cessation of her periods), and then post-menopause, her body largely stops producing estrogen and progesterone. With the drop in progesterone leading to the usual progesterone-estrogen balance being disrupted a common peri-menopausal symptom is swollen breasts, caused by the rising estrogen levels no longer checked by progesterone.
Over time, the length of which varies, the loss of these hormones can cause a woman’s breasts to undergo change and usually the swollenness of the peri-menopausal period subsides. As a general rule, there is an increase in fatty tissue and a decrease in glandular tissue, because the glandular tissue that has been firm so that the glands could produce milk, now shrinks and is replaced with fatty tissue. Many women find their breasts tend to increase in size and most breasts will sag as the fibrous (connective) tissue gradually loses its strength.
Often these changes can be unsettling too, as society on the whole does not view menopause in a positive or supportive way, linking it with the ageing process of the body and many women wrestle with the changes and physical symptoms, including the perceived loss of their physical beauty.
And instead of being able to embrace what is on offer women can end up feeling isolated, unattractive, exhausted, no longer useful and uncomfortable with their bodies.
The risk of breast cancer statistically rises for all women after the age of fifty, peaking in their sixties and women with dense breast tissue have a four to five times increased risk of breast cancer, the density of their breasts making identification of cancers through breast screening more problematic.
With all of these changes taking place, it makes sense for women to actively engage in breast care and develop their connection to and awareness of their breasts. This encourages a woman to get familiar with her breasts on a physical level and be aware of any changes that occur sooner rather than later and rediscover how tender and precious a part of her body they are, growing in time to a greater appreciation of her tenderness and preciousness as a woman in general.
A woman can benefit greatly from support at this time. Traditionally this role is filled by the doctor or nurse practitioner, but more and more women are finding an Esoteric Breast Massage (EBM) practitioner has the potential to play a significantly supportive role.
Research has shown that the key to a healthy menopausal transition is the level of self-esteem a woman holds herself in.* A woman who feels good about herself will naturally self-care, paying more attention to her diet, exercise, sleep, emotional and physiological wellbeing and this of course supports her to age well, in tandem with enriching her quality of life.
Women receiving EBMs report feeling more connected to themselves, their being, their wisdom, their power, with an increase in their self-esteem, and self-worth and finding themselves more accepting and embracing of this new phase of life and all it brings.
*Bloch, A. Self-awareness during the menopause. Maturitas 41 (2002) 61-68
*Hall, L., Callister L.C., Berry, J. A., Matsumura, G. Meanings of Menopause: Cultural Influences on Perception and Management of Menopause. Journal Holistic Nursing June 2007 vol. 25 2106-11
How the EBM supports Menopausal Women
The EBM supports a woman to adjust to the changes that menopause may bring and let go of what she may have felt identified her previously: her looks, her fertility (in relation to bearing children), her role as a mother and instead discover a deeper level of fertility or aliveness arising from her evolving sense of her inner worth/wisdom.
The EBM offers the client an opportunity to connect to a deeper feeling level of herself, her own loveliness and delicacy and not for someone or something else, just for her. This she may not have connected with before, or she may be aware of but has not taken the time to develop. The care and tenderness expressed by the EBM practitioner and nurtured by the sessions encourages the client to gradually develop a greater sense of self-appreciation and love of herself on many levels, and with this the recognition of her value and the wisdom she can bring to all those around her.
With regular sessions clients have reported a reduction in breast swelling, lumpiness, tenderness and other discomforts they may be feeling in their breasts.
Some women report feeling a greater sense of well-being and acceptance of the menopausal process, they report a lessening in severity of their symptoms. With the support of the EBM practitioner women are encouraged to take any steps, in consultation with her medical practitioner, necessary to further support their body, such as having mammography, hormonal support, dietary assistance, bone scans, exercise and so on.
As this is a time in a woman’s life when the loss of estrogen and progesterone make her more susceptible to health issues that can manifest later in life, such as heart disease
and osteoporosis, building a strong foundation in these years will support a healthier old age.
Post-menopause can be a particularly lovely and fulfilling time of a woman’s life, this can be enhanced where she is able to and embrace the changes to her sense of herself and her body and not fight what is happening during the whole menopausal transition.
Openness to the process of the menopausal transition may allow a woman to feel the inner changes and to pick up the subtle and not so subtle messages coming through her body and to understand what is happening. In the cycle of a woman life the natural movement is away from so much outer identification with activities, family, work, relationships. This is not to say the woman withdraws from any of this, but if she allows this space she will more likely discover a steadiness, a deeper and richer inner quality, one of stillness, greater detachment and expansion. With a full embracing of this process a woman may discover that life is different, and she is ready for that difference.