Are you in your late 40s or 50s and wondering why your body is going haywire? Most of you would have already pointed your fingers at menopause.
You might be pondering over many questions like, ‘Is it the right age?’, ‘Am I having a hot flash now?’, ‘Oh no! Will I gain weight?’; ‘Will my symptoms be the same as my sister’s?’ and ‘I have had hysterectomy. How am I gonna know if I am going through menopause?’ Let us help you answer them.
This post is for everyone of you who might be physically, mentally or emotionally taxed by menopause as to enlighten on what it does to your body!
What is 'Menopause'?
Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated in 12 consecutive months. It marks the end of your reproductive period when you can no longer become pregnant naturally. Menopause begins when the menstrual cycle finishes; usually between the ages of 45 and 55, but can develop before or after this age range. Remember, it is not a health problem, but a physiological condition.
What causes menopause?
Menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones, which occurs as you get older. It happens when your ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone estrogen and your body no longer release an egg each month.
By the time of girls’ first menstrual period, they have an average of about 400,000 eggs. By the time of menopause, a woman may have fewer than 10,000 eggs. A small percentage of these eggs are lost through normal ovulation (the monthly cycle). Most eggs die off through a process called atresia.
Normally, FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone (a reproductive hormone), is the substance responsible for the growth of the eggs during the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle. As menopause approaches, the remaining eggs become more resistant to FSH, and the ovaries dramatically reduce their production of a hormone called estrogen. Loss of estrogen is believed to be the cause of many of the symptoms associated with menopause.
However, not all women undergo natural menopause. Some women experience induced menopause because of surgeries or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy.This explains early menopause in some women.
How to know if you are headed towards menopause
You won’t know exactly when your menopause will hit. Pay attention to the changes in your body. Some women don’t have any trouble with menopausal symptoms and may even feel it as a time of liberation; a relief from menstrual pain and pregnancy worries. For other women, the menopausal transition can bring a combination of uncomfortable symptoms.
During menopause, various physical and mental changes can occur, causing these symptoms. The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather is gradual. Some of these start months or years before menopause and some continue after it.
Effects of menopause on your body:
1. Irregular periods
Physical changes begin years before the final menstrual period. This transition phase is called peri – menopause and may last for 4 years on an average. During this time, your hormone level fluctuates every month. These shifts can be erratic, affecting ovulation and the rest of your cycle. You may notice anything from irregular or missed periods to different bleeding patterns.
2. Hot flashes and night sweats
Hot flashes can make you feel warm or hot suddenly for no apparent reason. Your skin may flush red and your heart may beat faster. Then you may feel suddenly cold.
There is no apparent reason or cause and may happen for 1 to 5 minutes. You may have flashes multiple times an hour, once a week or even once a year.
You may be able to reduce the frequency of your hot flashes if you figure out your triggers, and avoid them. Although this won’t prevent hot flashes completely, you may notice that you experience symptoms less often.
3. Physical changes
Menopause manifests one thing you dread the most; Joint pains. Though not everyone, some of you might gain weight. For both these reasons it’s important to stay active. You may need to work harder to keep your strength and stay in shape. You may also notice your hair and skin becoming drier and thinner. Your vagina might become dry leading to pain during sex. In that case, gels called “personal lubricants” can help.
4. Emotional roller coaster
Menopause can cause more than pesky hot flashes. You might find yourself in a constant state of PMS and may experience,
- Feelings of sadness
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
It is typical during menopause to have one or more of the above signs. But, tell your doctor how you are feeling, so they can rule out other medical or psychiatric conditions.
5. Troubled sleep
Waking up during the night or having trouble going to sleep can happen for lots of reasons, but if you don’t typically have problems sleeping, it may be a sign you’re approaching menopause. Sometimes it’s caused by other menopausal symptoms like night sweats. If sleep problems hang on for a while, and you can’t pinpoint why, it may be time to tell your doctor.
6. Deceleration of sex drive
The loss of estrogen can lead to changes in your body and sexual drive. You may become less sensitive to every touch or stroke that used to arouse you. That can lead to less interest in sex. Some women enjoy sex more and feel freer because they don’t have to worry about things like getting pregnant.
7. Loss of memory
In the lead-up to menopause two-thirds* of women may have difficulty with concentration and memory. And this “brain fog” is more common than you might think. More severe memory issues may cause you to neglect your hygiene, forget the name of familiar objects, or have difficulty following directions.Memory and other cognition issues associated with menopause may improve with time. Eat well, get good sleep, exercise, and keep your mind active to help with your symptoms in the meantime.
Once your doctor has ruled out other issues, like dementia, you may explore menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) as per their advice.
Can menopause be treated?
Menopause hormonal therapy may help balance the body’s hormone levels by providing supplemental estrogen and a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone. However, using it may increase the risk of developing certain diseases and health conditions. Discuss the possible benefits and risks of hormone therapy with a doctor before deciding to use it and even before considering over the counter medication for your symptoms.
Changes in your lifestyle may help ease the symptoms of menopause. You may feel better if you:
- Follow a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Reduce the temperature in a room, dress in layers, and use a fan while asleep to help deal with troublesome hot flashes.
- Exercise your mind and body daily.Quit smoking, which can cause hot flashes
- Drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day
- Keep your body weight at a healthy level
- Take calcium supplements
- Explore new ways of enjoying intimacy with your partner
- Join a club, volunteer, or take up a new hobby
the best outlook!
Menopause can certainly be a positive time of life. Too often, myths foster misconceptions about this normal process of aging. Although menopause can cause some noticeable and uncomfortable changes in your body, these can be effectively managed.
Once you get over it, you feel ‘menopausal zest‘ – the rush of energy, both physical and psychological. You can take a fresh perspective towards your relationships, profession and personal health care. The relief of no more periods, pregnancy and PMS will reassure and empower you. View menopause not as the end of something, but as a beginning and embrace it. This outlook will help you get through and help you evolve.