What is menopause?
Menopause is the point of your life when you no longer get your monthly period. It is a natural part of ageing and occurs when a woman hasn't had a period in 12 months and is no longer able to conceive naturally. Even though it’s common among women between the ages of 45 and 55, it can occur before or after this age range as well.
What is the usual menopause age bracket?
You can reach menopause in your 50s, not induced by any form of health condition or surgery. This is known as natural menopause. As you become older, your reproductive cycle slows down and eventually stops. The body begins to undertake many modifications in reaction to lower levels of:
- follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- luteinizing hormone (LH)
The loss of active ovarian follicles is one of the most noticeable alterations. Ovarian follicles are the structures that allow menstruation and fertility by producing and releasing eggs from the ovarian wall.
Your menstrual cycle (period) begins to shift as menopause approaches. It may grow erratic before coming to a halt. Physical changes can occur when your body adjusts to various hormone levels. You should no longer be bleeding by the time you reach your 50s.
In certain situations, the ovaries and associated pelvic tissues are injured or surgically removed, causing menopause.
Common causes of induced menopause include:
- Bilateral oophorectomy, or surgical removal of the ovaries on both sides
- In women with estrogen receptor-positive malignancies, ovarian ablation, or the shutting down of ovarian function, can be accomplished through hormone therapy, surgery, or radiotherapy
- pelvic radiation
- Badly damaged or destroyed ovaries arising from certain pelvic injuries
What are the symptoms of menopause?
If you start to notice any or all of the symptoms listed below, you may be approaching menopause:
- Hot flashes cause a sudden feeling of heat to radiate from your body.
- Night sweats or cold flashes.
- Vaginal dryness; causing discomfort during sex.
- Frequent urge to pee (urinary urgency)
- Difficulty in sleeping (insomnia).
- Feelings of irritability can occur from mood swings and may result in the early stages of depression.
- Dry skin, dry eyes or dry mouth.
Women who are still going through the menopausal transition (perimenopause) may have the following symptoms:
- Tender breasts.
- Worsening of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Infrequent menstruation.
- Heavier or lighter than usual periods.
Some women may also relate to these menopause symptoms:
- Fast heartbeats.
- Joint and muscle aches.
- Decreased libido (sex drive).
- Difficulty concentrating or temporary memory lapses.
- Weight gain.
- Hair loss or thinning.
- Hair development in other parts of the body, such as the face, neck, chest, and upper back, is also increased.
Understanding hot flashes: the most common menopause symptom
Hot flashes are one of the commonest symptoms of menopause that are experienced by many women going through this stage. It is a sense of heat that lasts only a few seconds. Hot flashes aren't the same for everyone, and there's no one-size-fits-all explanation for why they occur. They may also include other symptoms apart from heat:
- A red, flushed face.
- A chilled feeling when the heat passes.
What are the stages of natural menopause?
The gradual process of menopause can be broken down into three stages:
Perimenopause (menopause transition): Occurring about 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries generate less estrogen over time, perimenopause generally begins in a woman's 40s, although it can also begin in her 30s. Perimenopause lasts until the ovaries cease producing eggs, which is when menopause occurs. Estrogen levels drop at an accelerated pace during the last two years of perimenopause.
Many women may be experiencing menopausal symptoms at this time. During this period, women might still have menstrual cycles and become pregnant.
- When a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual cycle, she is said to be in menopause.
Postmenopause: This is the term used to describe the moment after a lady hasn't bled for a year (and subsequently, the rest of your life post-menopause).
Many women's menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, may subside at this period. Some women, however, continue to have menopausal symptoms for a decade or longer after they have reached menopause.
Is menopause a possibility with hysterectomy or oophorectomy?
- Your uterus is removed during a hysterectomy procedure. Following this treatment, you will not have a period.
- If you kept your ovaries (an oophorectomy is the removal of your ovaries), you may not experience signs of menopause immediately after.
- If your ovaries are removed as well, you will experience menopausal symptoms right away.
How is menopause diagnosed?
Menopause can be diagnosed in several ways:
- The first is to talk about your menstrual cycle from the previous year. You may be postmenopausal if you have gone a year (12 months) without having a period.
- A blood test to assess your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level is another approach for your doctor to see if you're going through menopause. The pituitary gland produces the hormone FSH.
Other blood tests that are often used to confirm menopause include:
- Thyroid function tests
- Blood lipid profile
- Liver function tests
- Kidney function tests
- Certain hormone tests for testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, prolactin, etc
What are the usual treatments for menopause?
Menopause is a natural phenomenon and for mild symptoms, no treatment is required. But, if the symptoms are severe or they bother you, you can opt for three ways in which menopause can be treated:
Hormone treatment can help ease some of the symptoms of menopause by boosting hormone levels. It's also utilized as an osteoporosis preventive measure. It is useful against the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Vaginal atrophy (dryness)
- Irritability and mood swings
- Hair loss
Your doctor can prescribe a number of non-hormonal medicines. Typically, they are used to treat:
- Hot flashes
- Hair loss
- Vaginal dryness
Consult your doctor about which non-hormonal drugs might be most effective for you.
Home remedies, lifestyle modifications, and alternative therapies can all help to decrease minor to moderate menopausal symptoms naturally. These are some of them:
- Diet - Limiting your daily coffee intake and avoiding spicy meals might help to lessen the severity of your hot flashes. You may also include foods containing plant estrogen in your diet, such as soybeans, chickpeas, flaxseeds, and others. It is not a replacement for estrogen in our bodies, although it can assist with symptoms.
- Keeping cool - Wear loose, layered clothing, especially at night and when the weather is warm or uncertain. This can aid in the management of hot flashes. Keeping your room cold at night and eliminating heavy comforters might also help you avoid night sweats.
- Exercise - Light and calming exercises like yoga can help manage hot flashes, mood swings and even insomnia.
- Consider therapy - Any emotions of despair, worry, melancholy, loneliness, sleeplessness, or identity changes should be discussed with a therapist or psychologist. Even a strong support group of family and friends can help relieve mental symptoms.
Can menopause cause depression?
Menopause can be a roller coaster ride for your body. Your hormone levels are wildly fluctuating, you may be having trouble sleeping due to heat flashes, and you may be experiencing mood swings.
Anxiety and dread may also be present at this time. These things can all contribute to depression. Speak with your healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing any of the signs of depression.
Is pregnancy possible during or post menopause?
When you've been without a period for a year and are postmenopausal, the likelihood of conception vanishes (assuming there is no other medical condition for the lack of menstrual bleeding). You can, nevertheless, become pregnant throughout the menopausal transition (perimenopause).
Because of a reduction in fertility, becoming pregnant might be difficult for some women in their late 30s and 40s. If you want to get pregnant, however, there are fertility-enhancing medications and procedures that can assist you. Make sure to discuss these alternatives with your healthcare practitioner.
Are there any long-term health risks associated with menopause?
After menopause, you may be more susceptible to a variety of diseases. Your risk for any illness is influenced by a variety of factors, including your family history, your health prior to menopause, and lifestyle choices (smoking).
Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis, sometimes known as "brittle bone disease," is a condition in which the insides of bones grow less thick, making them more fragile and prone to fracture. Estrogen is crucial for bone mass preservation. Between menopause and the age of 60, women lose an average of 25% of their bone mass. This is a direct result of estrogen deficiency in a woman’s body.
Osteopenia is a condition in which bone density is reduced, which can lead to osteoporosis later on. If you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, estrogen therapy may be one of your therapeutic choices.
Coronary artery disease: The narrowing or blockage of the arteries that surround the heart muscle is known as coronary artery disease. When fatty plaque builds up in the arterial walls, this occurs (called atherosclerosis).
Your risk of coronary artery disease rises after menopause for a variety of reasons, including:
- estrogen deficiency (this hormone is also known to help in maintaining healthy arteries).
- High blood pressure.
- Decreased physical activity.
- Your bad behaviors from the past are catching up to you (smoking or excessive drinking).
The greatest ways to avoid heart disease are to eat a nutritious diet, quit smoking, and exercise regularly. The standard of treatment for chosen at-risk patients includes treating high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as controlling cholesterol levels with medicines.
What are the other menopause complications that are usually faced and how to deal with them?
Apart from the major health risks mentioned above, menopause comes with a few other complications found in women:
- Using a topical vaginal estrogen and doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles may help reduce incontinence symptoms. Hormone therapy may potentially be a useful therapeutic option for urine incontinence caused by menopausal urinary tract and vaginal alterations.
- Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants based on water may be beneficial. Many women benefit from the use of local vaginal estrogen therapy, which is available as a vaginal cream, pill, or ring if a vaginal lubricant isn't adequate.
Because metabolism slows throughout the menopausal transition and following menopause, many women gain weight. Adequate diet and exercise can help in maintaining current body weight.
Can you enjoy sex after menopause?
After menopause, you should still be able to have sex. Discomfort and painful intercourse are sometimes linked to reduced sex drive.
Many women are able to enjoy intimacy again after addressing the root of their suffering (vaginal dryness). Hormone treatment may also be beneficial to many ladies.
Speak with your healthcare practitioner if you're experiencing trouble enjoying sex after menopause.
What should you do after menopause?
Menopause is a natural part of ageing that all menstruating females go through. In most cases, you won’t need to incorporate any major changes to your lifestyle. If you face symptoms, they can be effectively managed with a little help. Make sure to maintain your intimate hygiene after menopause.
Overall, try to remain positive and remember that like in all stages of life, you can have a good time post menopause as well if you follow small changes in your routine that will soon become your new way of life.