The different stages of the menopausal transition: peri-menopause, menopause and post menopause mean different things to each woman and are experienced differently – depending on their approach to this transition and their relationship with their menstrual cycles, their body and how they feel about themselves as women.
By 2025 it is predicted that there will be 1.1 billion post-menopausal women in the world.
Source: A model of care for healthy menopause and ageing: EMAS position statement. Maturitas.org accessed October 2018
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
It is no secret that society on the whole does not view menopause in a positive or supportive way, regarding the ageing process of the body as negative and something to be dreaded.
Often the changes being experienced can be unsettling and many women end up wrestling with the physical symptoms, as well as emotional and psychological distress arising from the perceived loss of their physical beauty and fertility, instead of being able to fully embrace what is on offer.
Women can end up feeling isolated, unattractive, exhausted, no longer useful and uncomfortable with their bodies, whereas the menopausal cycle actually offers women the possibility of self-empowerment, and an opportunity to develop a deeper and enriching relationship with themselves and their bodies which they can continue developing throughout the rest of their lives.
A common physical symptom is that throughout the peri-menopausal transition the changes in a woman’s hormones can affect her breasts. 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. Then, when a woman reaches menopause itself (the cessation of her periods), and post-menopause, her body largely stops producing estrogen and 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.
The risk of breast cancer statistically rises for all women after the age of fifty 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, and the role of conventional medicine is critical to women’s health. Alongside this, more women are finding an Esoteric Breast Massage (EBM) practitioner has the potential to play a significantly supportive role side by side with conventional medicine.
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 Esoteric Breast Massage 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
Post Menopause can be experienced as a very fulfilling time for a woman, if she accepts the gradual movement into the role of an elder, no less vital in her engagement with life.
The EBM supports a woman to let go of her strong identification with her outer roles as she connects more to her inner being. This can help her adjust to the changes that menopause may bring and be less attached to what she may have felt identified her previously: her looks, her fertility (in relation to bearing children) and her role as a mother. Instead, as she builds a relationship with herself, she can discover a deeper level of fertility or aliveness arising from her evolving sense of her inner worth and innate wisdom.
As the EBM offers the client the opportunity to connect to a deeper feeling level of herself, she can start to feel her own inner loveliness and delicacy which has nothing to do with her outside appearance or anyone else and is self-sustaining and self-completing, needing no outer acknowledgment. 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.
Many EBM clients express they are feeling a greater sense of well-being and acceptance of the menopausal process, and have made mention of a lessening in severity of their symptoms. With regular sessions clients have reported a reduction in breast swelling, lumpiness, tenderness and other discomforts they may be feeling in their breasts.
The EBM practitioner will also support and encourage a woman to take any steps necessary, in consultation with her medical practitioner, to further support her 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.
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 and embrace what is happening. In this cycle of a woman’s 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 these, but if she allows this space she will more likely discover a steadiness and confidence stemming from a deeper richer inner quality, one of stillness, greater detachment and expansion that will be the hallmark of her years to come.
Having regular EBMs can certainly support the recognition, acceptance and development of this process if this is what a woman chooses.
Psychologically post menopause can be experienced as a very fulfilling time in her life, if she accepts the gradual movement into the role of an elder, no less vital in her engagement with life. In fact, she is still very much in life just in an expanded way, more so by the offering of her wisdom to those around her. With a woman’s embracing of the different stages and qualities of her life-cycle comes a greater contentment with her self and with a deepening self-acceptance as the years go by.
BREAST CARE / FURTHER READING