Menopause – what is it?
Menopause is the ending of menstruation permanently. It should be seen as a turning point and not an ailment. Menopause brings a large bearing on a woman’s overall health and well-being.
The menopause may also bring some physical disorders, like night sweats, hot flashes and many other symptoms. Looking at it positively, menopause is a fresh and gratifying phase in a woman’s life. It provides a woman an opportunity for guarding herself against important health risks, such as heart-related diseases and osteoporosis.
Causes of Menopause?
Aging is the foremost reason of menopause. It is the ending of your childbearing potential. The pace of your ovarian functions inversely begins slowing down. Some surgeries and remedial treatments may also bring on menopause, such as pelvic radiation therapy, bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both the ovaries surgically) and chemotherapy.
When Does Menopause begin?
The natural menopause comes at around the age of 51 on an average, according to the leading researchers. It is not always true. The menopause may begin sooner or later in some women. In some women menopause may begin even at the age of 40. And, a very few women attain menopause as late as at the age of 60. But if you look at the percentage in both the cases, it is certainly very low.
Women who are addicted to smoking tend to reach menopause somewhat earlier by a few years than non-smokers. There is no established way to forecast menopause age. It is only when a woman misses her menstrual cycle for a period of 12 months without any other obvious reasons, menopause may be confirmed.
What is Perimenopause
Natural menopause occurs slowly, step-by-step. Your ovaries do not stop working abruptly. Their working starts slowing down gradually. And, that is known as transition from ovulation stage to menopause stage. This transition from ovulation stage to menopause is known as perimenopause. Menopause should be seen as a milestone. In fact, it is the day that pronounces completion of 12 months of continuous break from your periods.
Don’t get surprised if we say that during your perimenopause, it is possible for you to get pregnant. As you know, perimenopause is a transitional stage of a woman during which her reproductive years gradually come to an end. Looking at the word ‘Gradually’, you will come to realize that your periods may have become erratic or irregular; your ovaries are still functioning and are capable of ovulating, though not essentially regular or on monthly basis.
What to expect from menopause
The effects of menopause are found to be differently in women. Some women may reach their natural menopause with very little or no trouble; many others may experience some harsh symptoms that considerably hamper their normal lives. And, when menopause begins suddenly because of some surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, it becomes tough to make adjustments. Let us discuss some of the menopausal symptoms that several females experience. The intensity of these symptoms may vary.
- Changes in your periods
As menopause approaches you, your periods also begin changing. But these changes may vary from one woman to another. These variations generally are:
- Longer or shorter periods
- Lighter or heavier periods
- Less or more time between two periods
Such changes are considered normal, but the researchers recommend calling on a doctor in case:
- The time between your two periods become close
- You experience spotting or heavy bleeding
- Your periods continue for more than 7 days
- Hot Flashes
Around menopause, experiencing hot flashes is common. A hot flash is a feeling of heat briefly. It may make your face and the neck flushed. Red blotches may appear temporarily on your chest, arms and back followed by chills and sweating. The intensity of hot flashes may vary and they may last for sometime between ½ minute and 10 minutes. For dealing with hot flashes, you are advised to:
- Wear light clothes
- Regular exercise
- Use a fan
- Avoid heat
- Avoid spicy foods
- Manage your stress with meditations
- Sleep Issues
Hot flashes at the time of night may hamper your sleep and you may experience night sweats. Some helpful tips:
- Keep your bedroom cool and cozy
- Don’t use heavy bedding
- It is worth keeping a damp cloth nearby for cooling in case you wake up feeling sweaty and hot
- Your night clothes should be of light cotton or sheer fabric and loose in fitting
- Keep your pets out of the bedroom; they give off heat
- Talk to your health care provider if your sleep problems are ongoing or bother you.
- Low sex drive
Low estrogen may cause dryness in the vagina making copulation with your partner painful and uncomfortable. You may try water-soluble lubricant to get rid of the dryness. You may also notice a low libido. Menopause brings down your sex drive because of stress, poor sleep, medications and depression. Consult your doctor if you are facing low sex drive or any other sexual problem. It is worth remembering that sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) will not end with menopause. Menopause does not give you freedom for indulging in unprotected sex.
How to manage severe symptoms
In case menopause symptoms have been bothering you and become a tough problem, it is worth consulting with your doctor. She or he may help you in evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of menopausal hormone therapy, also called hormone replacement therapy. Your doctor may also help you choose some other treatments for tackling menopausal symptoms, such as:
Antidepressants and Blood Pressure medicines
- Birth Control Pills in case you are going through perimenopausal period
- Medicines for hot flashes
- Vaginal estrogen cream
Your treating doctor may also give you some lifestyle tips for your diet, sleep, excise and managing stress.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy helps in lessening the menopausal symptoms. Many prescription medicines are available for treating hot flashes and symptoms related to the vagina. The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) advocate taking only the lowest dose for the shortest period of hormonal replacement therapy. The use of hormone replacement therapy on a long-term basis is associated with a higher risk of strokes, heart attacks, developing breast cancer and blood clots.
Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Bioidentical hormone therapy for tackling menopausal symptoms is referred to some prescription drugs approved by the FDA. Or, it may also refer to custom-compounded hormones taken from plants and prepared in compounding pharmaceutical factories to fulfill the particular needs of unique patients. Some medical practitioners may claim that the compounded bioidentical hormones are quite safe, but the FDA remains unconvinced. The FDA’s recommendation – the lowest dose for the shortest period – is also applicable to the bioidentical hormone therapy. The Custom-compounded bioidentical hormones are not approved by the FDA.
Alternative Menopause Treatments
Are you interested in taking the alternative or harmonizing treatments for tackling menopause symptoms? As per the National Institutes of Health, there is very little research on this issue. And, that whatever research is there is not well-designed. Moreover, the researchers are unsure to draw final results from the treatments like black cohosh, red clover, dong quai, and soy. If you have been or intend taking any kind of supplement, it is advised to speak to your doctor and seek his or her opinion.
Menopause Health Risks
Menopause brings a higher risk of getting heart disease(s) and osteoporosis. The estrogen loss because of menopause may play an important role in catching heart disease. The hormone replacement therapy is not advised for reducing the risks of stroke or heart disease. The health of your bones and heart is important all through your life. The menopause means it is time to really become serious about this.
Staying healthy throughout life is important for everyone. And, it’s not too late to begin caring for it at any stage of life. Get a full body checkup that should include:
- Your blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Mammography to know that your breasts have no abnormality
Menopause is an opportune time for improving your diet, stress managing skills and physical activities. Your doctor may help you plan how to stay healthy after menopause.
Make your transitory journey from ovulation to menopause phase and afterwards interesting by indulging in an active lifestyle. This should include:
- Doing aerobic exercises for your heart, and
- Weight-bearing exercises to take care of your bones
Both the above may help in warding off weight gain and providing an energetic mood boost. Even if you have not been very active during your younger years, it is never too late to make a new beginning. Menopause is, perhaps, the perfect time for weaving in more activities into your lifestyle.
Beginning of a New Era
The west has always been obsessed with keeping youth intact. Living in that spirit will help you to combat menopause. Never look back mournfully as aging is the process of life and menopause is its part. Dr Deeksha Tyagi, an eminent fertility expert, recommends using menopause at the opportune time for redefining yourself with a positive spirit.