The menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life – and yet, it’s a subject that’s shrouded in mystery.

Menopausal symptoms can come as a bit of a shock to someone who doesn’t know what to expect, so it’s helpful to be aware of the early signs and prepare accordingly.

A woman has gone through the menopause when she’s had 12 consecutive months without a period. But in the earliest stage, known as the perimenopause, there are all sorts of changes going on. This is when you might first experience hot flushes, night sweats and irregular periods, as well as mood swings.

Hot flushes are when a woman suddenly feels overwhelmingly hot from her chest up to her face. This is usually accompanied with redness and sweating. It’s best to wear natural fibres in layers, so you’re less likely to get uncomfortably warm, but can strip off a layer easily if you do. Night sweats are the night version of hot flushes, and can leave you waking up drenched. Sleeping with the window open and an electric fan by the bed can help. Sleep can be problematic for menopausal women generally, so effort should be put into getting sleeping arrangements just right.

Other menopausal symptoms include weight gain and bleak moods. These can be alleviated by following a healthy diet, cutting down on stimulants like coffee and alcohol, and getting plenty of mood-boosting exercise. It’s common to start feeling overwhelmed with stress and a sense of isolation. Getting support from loved ones and finding ways to manage your stress, like practising meditation or yoga, can help enormously during this time.

It’s also normal to start having irregular periods during the perimenopause, which can come as a surprise if you’ve had years of regular ones. Keeping a hygiene product such as Bodyform  Ultra Towels handy, or wearing a daily panty liner such as Bodyform DailyFresh liners, will mean you’re prepared for this. The menopause can also be the cause of bladder weakness, as the reduction in oestrogen in the abdominal muscles can make them less effective in keeping the bladder closed. To avoid little accidents and to keep your clothes fresh, keep some Lights by Tena in your bag.

The key thing with preparing for the menopause is acknowledging the changes as they occur, talking them through with a friend or family member, and making necessary lifestyle adjustments. This way, you won’t suddenly find yourself feeling overwhelmed and miserable.