Menopause

Menopause is an integral to the natural phenomenon of aging. It is a biological event that signifies the end of fertility and menstruation. The end of cyclical vaginal bleeding is actually a beginning of a new life. It is very natural. Like your periods began for the first time, there is now going to be a last time. Prepare yourself to adapt to this transition in life.

Knowing more about menopause

Menopause, also called change in life, is a time when the menstrual cycle cease permanently. It happens because the gonads called ovaries are no longer producing eggs. Women in menopause are no longer fertile.

Menopause is said to have occurred if the periods cease for 12 consecutive months. Thus, menopause is diagnosed in retrospect.

Menopause may set in anytime in the early forties or late fifties, usually after 45 years of age. The age for menopause is different for different women. The average age is said to be 51 years.

Menopause leads to hormonal changes in the body that cause symptoms like:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Dry skin and vagina
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weight gain
  • Hair thins and becomes scanty
  • Facial hair growth
  • Burning sensation while passing urine
  • Desire for sex decreases
  • Intercourse may become painful
  • Irregular periods
  • Light, heave, frequent or infrequent flow

These menopause symptoms may precede for a number of years. This phase of transition to menopause is called perimenopause. There is a higher risk of heart disease, weak bones, and some cancers like cancer of the breast and womb.

Hot flushes are a feeling of sudden gush of heat felt in the face and upper body which then blush. It is actually an imbalance of hormones that leads to excessive local blood flow in these regions. It is best to identify and avoid triggers of a hot flush like heat, alcohol, or caffeine.

  • Wear comfortable and light clothing, and practice slow and deep breathing.
  • Exercise can work wonders. Walk for at least 30 minutes each day. Yoga and meditation offer benefits.
  • Hormone therapy, which aims to replenish the falling hormone levels, is commonly used.
  • Antidepressant medicines like venlafaxine, gabapentin, and fluoxetine are also used.
  • Vitamin E and soy isoflavones are said to relieve symptoms effectively. Alternative approaches include acupuncture and herbal remedies.
  • Weight loss and smoking cessation help.
  • Menopause affects the psyche and mood
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Aggressiveness
  • Tension
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Negative feelings

Things to follow:

  • It is good to socialize
  • Avoid isolation
  • Engage in creative activities
  • Exercise and eat healthy food
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Relaxing activities can help

In severe cases, medicines to treat depression and counseling to develop motivation are required.

Usually the signs and symptoms are enough to treat menopause in a women. In some cases the doctor may recommend a few diagnostic tests to treat menopause. They are:

  • Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen are checked as FSH levels increase and estrogen levels decrease.
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) should be checked as a non active thyroid shows symptoms similar to those of menopause.

Menopause though is a natural biological event, yet may need medical help if the symptoms are very severe. Remember, your periods can get irregular. So, do not assume menopause if you have missed one or few of your periods or have experienced a scantier flow.

Talk to your doctor and rule out any other causes of vaginal bleeding like a cancer in the genital tract. The symptoms may make your life miserable.

You may need to undergo a few blood tests to confirm the nearing of menopause. It is better to be informed, aware, and prepared to meet menopause.

If possible, schedule regular visits to your doctor and have your health care provider help you to make menopause a smooth transition.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the substitution of the lost hormones. It consists of estrogen and progesterone replacement. Normally, these two hormones are produced in the body and help to regulate the menstrual cycle.

During menopause, when the levels of these hormones fall, these need to be substituted from outside to maintain a state as close to natural as possible. Hormones may be given in form of pills, vaginal rings, or patches placed on the skin.

For local symptoms in vagina, estrogen creams and tablets can be used inside the vagina. HRT can dramatically reduce hot flushes, urinary problems, bone loss, and other mood changes. However, HRT is not free from risks.

Estrogen in HRT increases the risk of cancer of the womb, called the uterus; HRT also increases the risk of breast cancer.

It causes changing in the clotting mechanisms of the blood and increases the tendency to form blood clots. It is known to increase blood pressure, heart disease, and cholesterol.

Depending upon your age, medical problems, and severity of menopausal symptoms, varying doses of HRT may be advised.

  • The first step towards an easy menopause is to exercise and eat a healthy balanced diet.
  • Some women may be prescribed antidepressant medicines. Medicines called bisphosphonates like alendronate, risedronate, and ibandronate are used to prevent and treat osteoporosis.
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) like raloxifene have beneficial effect on bone health.
  • Local therapy has fewer side effects and can be used to treat local symptoms in the vagina. This comprises vaginal rings, creams, or tablets of estrogen for insertion into vagina.
  • Soy foods are proven to work well in relieving the symptoms and also in lowering the risks for cancer.
  • A supplement of 1,000 - 1,500 mg of elemental calcium per day through diet and tablets, and vitamin D are good for bones.
  • Fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids is good for the heart and cholesterol.
  • A number of herbs like black cohosh, ginseng, sage, and red clover are believed to be beneficial.
  • Acupuncture and homeopathy are alternative treatments.
  • Slow deep breathing and relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation also help.

Menopause may be a different experience for each woman. Every woman should be prepared to beat the blues, build the bones, and do the best to make menopause less distressing. A change in lifestyle and timely medical help can make a huge difference. Let the dawn of menopause not deter your life.