Menopause has dominated headlines in recent months with calls for greater recognition in the workplace for the debilitating effects on women of the condition. Less clear are the impacts of the menopause and perimenopause on women with disabilities and the people who care for them. This prompted Praxis Care chiefs in Derry City, Tracey Devenney and Louise Lyons, to co-ordinate the recent information event.
Tracy said: “At Praxis Care we have been gearing up for the last two years to provide expert advice to our carers and the people they care for as they approach and experience the perimenopause and menopause.
“The menopause is something many people hate talking about but for someone going through the menopause with a learning disability this can be even more difficult. We are now helping with this through training, awareness, exercise and health.”
The event, which attracted more than 50 delegates, was facilitated by Sinead Crumlish and Bronagh McNamara who run the Inclusively Fit programme and Pauline Sharkey, the menopause nurse practitioner.
Menopause is the point in a woman’s life when she no longer has menstrual cycles. It typically occurs when a woman is in her late 40s to 50s and is diagnosed after a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual cycle. The term “perimenopause” describes the time leading up to the full 12-month cessation of periods. Sometimes periods can be irregular and sporadic for years before a woman goes a full twelve months with no menstrual cycle, meaning a woman can be perimenopausal for years.
Women with Down syndrome tend to go through menopause at a slightly younger age. The median age of menopause in women with Down syndrome was reported to be 46. The median age of menopause in white women without Down syndrome from industrialized countries was reported to be between the ages of 50-52. The median age at the onset of perimenopause in those same women was reported to be 47.5.
Women with Down syndrome can experience all of the same common symptoms of menopause as women without Down syndrome. It can be challenging for a woman with Down syndrome to explain some of the symptoms she may be experiencing, and many of the women who have visited our clinic have not reported these symptoms. Hot flashes, in particular, seem to be a difficult concept for women with Down syndrome to describe. Sometimes caretakers may notice symptoms of menopause more than the woman with Down syndrome.
Some women with Down syndrome report confusion and difficulty with memory as they experience menopause. It can be difficult to determine whether these symptoms are related to menopause or to the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease for postmenopausal women with Down syndrome.