What is Menopause? How to deal with it
Rachel was feeling so much different from last some months. Her body started acting so different lately. She was new to hot flashes, night, sweats, full-body aches & pain, fatigue, and often sore breasts. She didn’t know what has changed suddenly; and was into her late thirties.
She was then told that she might have started experiencing Perimenopause. Peri-menopause refers to the time period leading up to menopause when a female may start experiencing changes in her menstrual periods.
Irregular periods or changes in flow can be the new thing a woman faces when this Perimenopause period starts. Cycles can be shorter or longer in length. Some women may experience these symptoms even 5-10 years before their final menstrual period. There is no way to predict the age at which a woman may start experiencing her menopausal symptoms. Menopause occurs when a woman has had an entire year without her periods.
Menopause has three different phases/stages. It is not something that you wake up someday, and you are on your final menopause stage. The woman’s body signals many years before the final menstrual period. Let me explain to you the three stages below.
This typically begins several years before menopause when the ovaries start to decrease the production of the female hormone estrogen. It can begin even 5-10 years before the menopause. This stage can last up to until menopause, the stage at which a woman’s ovaries would finally stop releasing eggs. The average of perimenopause is four years, but for some women, it may last for a few months or even up to 10 years. It ends when a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual cycle. In the last year of perimenopause, the production of female hormone estrogen starts to decline at a very fast rate.
This stage signals you by many symptoms –
– Hot flashes
– Sore breast
– Lower sex drive
– Irregular periods
– Worse premenstrual syndrome
– Vaginal dryness
– Discomfort during sex
– Urine leakage when sneezing or coughing
– Urge to urinate more than usual
– Mood swings
– Trouble sleeping
WHEN TO SEEK EXPERT HELP
Irregular periods are common and normal during perimenopause, but there are other conditions which can cause changes in menstrual bleeding. If you notice something unusual or symptoms below, see a doctor to find out the real cause:
– Periods are very heavy, or they have blood clots.
– Spot between periods.
– Periods are lasting longer than usual.
– Spotting after intercourse.
CAUSES OF ABNORMAL BLEEDING
– Hormone problems
– Birth control pills
– Blood clotting problems
HOW IS PERIMENOPAUSE DIAGNOSED?
A blood test to check hormone levels and symptoms can help diagnose perimenopause. It may be helpful to have several blood tests done at different times for comparison.
PREGNANCY AND PERIMENOPAUSE
At this stage, you can still become pregnant. Using different form of birth control can help you avoid getting pregnant until you reach menopause. Due to the drop in fertility in the late 30s to early 40s, some women might find it challenging to get pregnancy.
TREATMENTS TO EASE THE SYMPTOMS OF PERIMENOPAUSE
– A low dose of birth control pills
– Birth control skin patch
– Vaginal ring
– Progesterone injection
– Vaginal lubricants
– Antidepressant medication
NOTE – Seek your doctor’s advice before using birth control pills.
You can also ease the symptoms if you do things that enhance your overall well being, such as:
– Getting enough calcium.
– Get active and do exercises.
– Quit smoking and drinking alcohol.
– Avoid spicy foods.
– Get enough sleep with a regular sleep pattern.
– Taking all the essential daily multivitamin.
– Nutritional and balanced diet.
– Yoga and meditation can also help.
The simple meaning of menopause is that the childbearing days of a woman are at the end now. Menopause refers to the time when a woman’s periods stop, and her ovary doesn’t produce eggs to reproduce anymore. Usually, menopause starts between the ages of 45 to 55. In the U.S.A , the average menopause age is 51. In a few exceptional cases, a woman can experience menopause in their 30s or even earlier than that. The scientific term for that is premature ovarian insufficiency or premature/early menopause in general. The change in hormone levels can influence menopause.
The three reproductive hormones (oestradiol, oestrone, and oestriol) collectively known as estrogen are associated with a woman’s fertility. Oestrogen is produced by the ovaries, Though small amounts of estrogen are also produced by the adrenal glands and the placenta of a pregnant woman. Estrogen or estrogen triggers the female characteristics at puberty and is responsible for a woman’s reproductive cycle. Ovulation takes places for implantation in the uterus each month. The monthly menstrual cycle takes places because no implantation has taken place- there is no pregnancy, and the lining of the womb is shed.
As the women get older, their ovaries decline the production of estrogen hormone, and some symptoms are introduced to let them know about behavioral change in their body. This process does not completely stop the production of estrogen & progesterone overnight. The monthly menstrual cycle ends ultimately, usually at around the age of 50-55 years. That simply means the ovaries won’t produce estrogen, and there will be no more periods and no more pregnancies. This final stopping of menstrual cycle finally refers to menopause.
Below are the signs & symptoms a woman experiences during menopause.
Nearly 80% of menopausal women experience hot flashes at night. The intense sensation of heat that starts from the upper body and quickly spreads to the rest of the body is referred to as hot flashes. This can last a few minutes along with other hot flash symptoms like sweating, chills, shivering, and anxiety. Hot flashes can occur one to two each day to as many as one per hour.
Skin and hair changes
Getting dry skin with fine lines and wrinkles is common with skin. Your hair may get thinner; you may also develop facial hair.
Low sex drive
Women already have lower levels of testosterone. With menopause, the production of estrogen also declines at a very fast rate, and the vagina becomes drier and less elastic. All this leads to a complication during sex.
Difficulty maintaining weight
Hormone fluctuation due to menopause makes it challenging to maintain, gain or lose your weight. Even with an active lifestyle and a balanced diet gets so hard to maintain the ideal weight.
Due to menopause, the deficiency of estrogen leads to thinning of the vaginal lining, dryness, and inflammation. This can cause vaginal itching, burning sensation, and pain during lovemaking.
Urge to pee
With menopause, the urge to pee becomes more than usual. The risk of UTI (urinary tract infections) increases with menopause.
Difficulty sleeping and unusual sleeping patterns are common during menopause. Also, hot flashes can affect the sleep as they are experienced more at night time.
Women can experience depression and low mood in menopause. Hormone changes can cause depression, mood swings and disturbed nights of sleep. As a result of these emotional changes, a woman may experience low libido or sex drive.
This menopause stage can affect cognitive functions, such as concentration. Often women may experience short term memory loss and difficulty concentrating for long periods.
SOME OTHER MENOPAUSE EFFECTS ON BODY
– Menopause can cause sudden weight gain, obesity and a buildup of belly fat.
– Hair loss and thinning hair.
– Losing shine & health of the skin.
– Shrinking of breasts.
Without properly take care of these symptoms can taper off over a period of two to five years. Vaginal dryness, itching, and discomfort can become chronic. Menopause can cause effects on both hair and skin. Without proper menopause treatment, these symptoms can get even worse.
This menopause stage can result in some complications in women. We are mentioning some below:
A patient may lose bone density during the first few years following menopause, and this can result in a higher risk of osteoporosis.
– CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
The drop in estrogen levels after menopause is associated with causing an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
– BREAST CANCER
The risk of developing breast cancer increases after menopause.
– URINARY INCONTINENCE
Menopause causes the vagina and urethra to lose their elasticity. The urge to pee increases more than usual. Women may involuntarily urinate after sneezing, coughing, laughing or lifting weights during menopause.
– SEXUAL FUNCTION
The sexual activity can become painful and discomforting due to less production of natural lubricant and loss of elasticity
Vaginal dryness from decreased moisture production and loss of elasticity can cause discomfort and slight bleeding during sexual intercourse. Also, decreased sensation may reduce your desire for sexual activity (libido)
HOW IS MENOPAUSE DIAGNOSED?
Although the diagnosis can be tracked by the woman’s history, a blood lab test may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of menopause. Examining thyroid function, prolactin level, and physical examination can also help in the diagnosis of menopause.
There are some other lab tests which are done to diagnose menopause:
– Kidney function test
– Thyroid function test
– Blood lipid profile
– Liver function test
– Testosterone, progesterone, prolactin, estradiol and chorionic gonadotropin tests
PREGNANCY AND MENOPAUSE
Though the fertility of a woman goes down at the time of menopause, it is still possible to get pregnant until women have reached the postmenopause stage. The number of eggs a woman has declined, and the ones that are left continue to age. But with time passing by those eggs may come up with chromosomal abnormalities. In simple language, we can say that when a woman gets older, her chances of getting pregnant also decrease. If a viable egg is released and fertilized, conception can take place. But there are no chances of getting pregnant after the ovulation stops permanently. Using ovulation test strips, a woman can determine when she is ovulating. Then, she can decide whether to get pregnant or to avoid it.
Every woman experiences menopause in her own way. Here are some basic facts about menopause:
– Menopause occurs when you go 12 months without a period.
– The average age at which menopause occurs is 51.
– Premature or Early menopause occurs before 40.
– The time period before menopause is known as perimenopause.
– Most common symptoms are hot flashes and weight gain.
– Menopause can lead to bone loss, hair thinning.
– Menopause can lead to heart disease and stroke.
– Hormone therapy can help relieve menopause symptoms.
– Balanced diet and lifestyle can help you feel better.
– After menopause, women get free of monthly painful periods.
The time period after menopause is called postmenopause. This is the time a woman may get rid of all those painful symptoms gradually; she has experienced before menopause. But due to several factors, including low levels of estrogen, a woman may be at the risk of various menopause health-related problems, such as osteoporosis and heart diseases.
HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN I AM POSTMENOPAUSAL?
Once you have had one year without getting your monthly menstrual cycles/ periods, you are considered to be menopausal. Measuring follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level is another way to determine if you are near menopause. Your follicle-stimulating hormone level dramatically rises as your ovaries began to shut down. The follicle-stimulating hormone levels can fluctuate during perimenopause. So to confirm postmenopausal, you need to note if you have had no period for a year.
PREGNANCY AND POSTMENOPAUSE
There are very rare chances of getting pregnant once you have been without you periods for an entire year. But it is advised to use contraception until your doctor confirms you are genuinely are postmenopausal.
Natural menopause in female requires no treatment. There is only one thing you can do about menopause discomfort. Focus on relieving the signs & symptoms and try to prevent chronic conditions that may show up with aging. We are mentioning some menopause treatments below:
– HORMONE THERAPY
Estrogen hormone therapy is the most basic and effective treatment for relieving menopausal hot flashes. The doctor determines the amount of estrogen dosage needed by examining your medical history to provide you with relief. Progestin will also be required in addition to estrogen. Estrogen also helps prevent bone loss. Using hormone therapy for a long time may lead to cardiovascular and breast cancer risks.
But here are benefits according to research when started around the time of menopause. You can ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy, which is safe and suitable for you. This treatment is usually started before the age of 60 years can be continued for five years. In some cases, some women cannot use hormone therapy due to breast, uterine cancer, blood clots, liver disease, heart diseases, pregnant women and undiagnosed vaginal bleeding.
Estrogen can increase the risk of strokes, blood clots, and other problems. Estrogen, when combined with progestin hormone, can increase the risk of breast cancer and heart attack. Oral estrogen can cause painful and swollen breasts, vaginal discharge, headache, and nausea. Patients with liver damage are advised not to use oral estrogen.
– VAGINAL ESTROGEN
Menopause can make your vagina dry and make it lose its elasticity. To get relief from this vaginal dryness, estrogen enriched cream, tablet or ring are applied directly to the vagina. The estrogen released by this treatment is absorbed by vaginal tissues, which help relieve vaginal dryness, discomfort with sex and some urinary symptoms.
Estrogen patches can also increase the risk of severe issues like cancer and stroke. They can cause painful and swollen breasts, vaginal discharge, headache, and nausea. The patch can also irritate the spot where it is applied. It is advisable not to use tanning beds and saunas while using an estrogen patch as the heat can make the patch release the estrogen too quickly. Estrogen rings and cream can also bring the same harmful effects as other estrogen hormone therapy.
Studies have shown that antidepressants related to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help with menopausal hot flashes. Antidepressants can also help some women with mood swings. Some women cannot use estrogen therapy due to their health concerns, and they can use a low dose of an antidepressant to manage hot flashes.
Antidepressants can also cause some side effects like nausea, weight gain, loss of sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, drowsiness, insomnia, blurred vision, constipation, anxiety, and dizziness.
Gabapentin can relieve the symptoms of menopausal hot flashes. Those who cannot opt estrogen hormone therapy and suffer nighttime hot flashes, this drug can be useful to those women. Gabapentine have some side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, memory loss, lack of coordination, viral infections, fever, anxiety and mood swings
Clonidine is a well-known drug for treating high blood pressure. A pill or patch of clonidine may provide relief from menopause hot flashes. Clonidine also comes with side effects like severe chest pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, severe headache, nose bleeds, drowsiness, constipation and insomnia.
– MEDICINES TO TREAT AND PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS
Vitamin D supplements can help strengthen bones. Your doctor can prescribe specific medication to prevent osteoporosis. The market is filled with several medications that help reduce bone loss and risk of fractures. Vitamin and calcium-enriched diet can also help with osteoporosis.
Before deciding on any form of treatment for menopause symptoms, Talk with your doctor about your options, risks and benefits involved. Review your options yearly, as your needs and treatment options may change. All those menopause medications have some side effects, so it is advisable that you must consult your doctor to what to do & be safe. Expert guidelines can always help you more than anything else.
MENOPAUSE TREATMENT AT HOME
There are lots of natural relief home remedies for menopause discomfort. Menopause symptoms are temporary, and we can prevent their effects from some home remedies and lifestyle changes.
– Hot flashes
Dressing in layers, drinking cold water and staying at a cooler place can help. Avoid hot flash triggers like hot beverages, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, stress, and warm weather.
– VAGINAL DISCOMFORT
Water-based, silicone-based lubricants and moisturizers can help. Always avoid products with glycerin as it can cause burning and irritation to those women who are allergic to the chemical. Staying sexually active using lubricants can also help as it would increase blood flow to the vagina.
– GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can interrupt your sleep. Exercises at the day time are acceptable but avoid exercises at night before bedtime. Use hot flashes treatment to have an undisrupted and adequate sleep.
– YOGA AND MEDITATION
The Yoga has significant effects when it comes to menopause. Yoga can improve strength, balance and coordination, which help prevent falls. Always perform balancing exercise under expert supervision. Consider joining a yoga class to learn proper techniques. Meditation can help you relax and calm.
– RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Deep breathing, fast breathing, massage, swimming, and progressive relaxation can help you out ease the menopausal symptoms. There are thousands of books, videos, and articles you can find online or nearby stores.
– KEGEL EXERCISES
The Kegel exercises can improve some forms of urinary incontinence. Kegel exercise can also help improve sexual health by:
Ø Relaxing the vaginal muscles, this helps in vagina elasticity. This can help you to have painless intercourse.
Ø Improving blood circulation to the vagina and pelvic floor.
Ø Increasing vaginal lubrication.
– BALANCED DIET
Add a variety of fruits, vegetable and whole grains in your diet. Limit the intake of sugar, salt, oils and saturated fats. Include multivitamins, vitamin D and calcium supplements in your diet. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water, lukewarm water with lemon juice is more beneficial. Avoid hot beverages, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, stress and warm weather.
– CUT OFF SMOKE AND ALCOHOL
Smoking and drinking can increase your risk of heart diseases, stroke, osteoporosis, cancer, asthma and other health problems. These can increase hot flashes and lead to early menopause.
– GET PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Start exercises on a regular basis to protect yourself from heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and other health issues related to aging.
– PLANT ESTROGEN
Add soya beans, lentils, chickpeas, legumes, flaxseed, whole grains and other nutritious food which are full of estrogen. The herb sage is also known for its estrogen properties. It is advisable to avoid it with people who are allergic, pregnant, breastfeeding women and people with high blood pressure.
– BLACK COHOSH
Studies have found black cohosh helpful in managing menopause symptoms. People with a damaged liver and breast cancer should not use black cohosh.
– VITAMIN E
Apply topical vitamin E oil directly to the vagina; it helps in lubricating and may reduce hot flashes.
All the above can be helpful in knowing everything about menopause, its symptoms, and treatments. Make sure you consult your doctor before trying anything yourself. To be safe, you must seek expert advice always. Women have always been a blessing to humankind. A man should always support women in their physiological problems. Share this knowledge with all the beautiful women out there. Make sure you let us know what worked for you to relieve menopause symptoms.