The life of a doula revolves around profound connections, deep empathy, and unwavering support. As we stand alongside families during life's most transformative moments, we mustn't forget our own personal journeys. One such journey, often overlooked, is the transition through peri-menopause and menopause.
Understanding Peri-Menopause, Menopause, and Post-Menopause
Before we delve deeper, let's clarify these stages:
Peri-Menopause: This transitional phase can begin in a woman's 40s (sometimes even in her 30s) and lasts several years. It's characterised by fluctuating oestrogen levels, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and symptoms like mood swings and sleep disturbances.
Menopause: This is marked by 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, typically occurring in a woman's late 40s to early 50s. Symptoms from peri-menopause might continue or change during this time.
Post-Menopause: Following menopause, this phase spans the rest of a woman's life. While many acute symptoms subside, post-menopausal women face increased risks for conditions like osteoporosis.
The Personal Impact on Doulas
As doulas, our well-being directly influences the support we offer. Here's how these stages might touch our roles:
Emotional Sensitivity: Fluctuating hormone levels can lead to mood swings and heightened emotions. This increased sensitivity can influence our interactions with clients and our perception of professional situations.
Physical Symptoms: Hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances can affect our stamina and energy levels, crucial for labour support or postpartum care.
Cognitive Changes: Some women report memory lapses or difficulty concentrating during this transition, which can be concerning in our detail-oriented profession.
Shift in Perspective: As we experience this significant life transition, our perspectives on birth, motherhood, and femininity might evolve, influencing our approach to doula work.
Nurturing Ourselves: Tips and Ideas
Navigating peri-menopause and menopause as a doula requires understanding, self-compassion, and proactive self-care. Here are some solutions and ideas:
Education: Equip yourself with knowledge. Understand the changes your body is undergoing and seek resources tailored for doulas.
Open Dialogue: Create a support network within the doula community. Sharing experiences can provide comfort and practical insights.
Professional Support: Consider counselling or therapy, especially if you're finding it challenging to cope with the emotional and psychological changes.
Physical Care: Engage in regular exercise, which can alleviate some symptoms and boost your mood. Practices like yoga and tai chi can also offer relaxation and mindfulness benefits.
Dietary Adjustments: Incorporate foods rich in phytoestrogens, like flaxseeds and soy products, which might help balance hormones. Stay hydrated and consider supplements after consulting with a healthcare professional.
Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help manage stress, improve sleep, and foster a positive mindset.
Adjust Workload: If possible, consider adjusting your workload or taking occasional breaks. Listen to your body and prioritise self-care.
Celebrate the Journey: Embrace this phase as a celebration of wisdom, experience, and growth. Journaling can be a therapeutic way to process emotions and document your journey.
In conclusion, peri-menopause and menopause are transformative phases that offer both challenges and growth opportunities. As doulas, it's essential to remember to support ourselves whilst we support others. By understanding, seeking support, and prioritising self-care, we can navigate this journey with grace and strength.