It’s about a lot more than hot flushes. Here’s everything you need to know about menopause.
One of the most common fears that women have about menopause is simply not knowing what to expect. Most people would have heard about their friends’ menopause experiences, which may at times sound frightening. But if you take the time to learn about this life-changing experience, you may be able to avoid some of the worries associated with it.
Here’s everything you need to know about menopause, as well as how to get a handle on this transitional stage of your life.
Menopause is a normal part of the ageing process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive life. During this stage, your body will decrease its production of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The word “menopause” refers to the last or final menstrual period that a woman experiences. When a woman stops menstruating for 12 consecutive months, she is considered “postmenopausal”. Most women become menopausal naturally between 45 and 55 years old.
If you are going through menopause, you may experience changes in your menstruation. Some women may menstruate more or less often than they usually do. Others may experience shorter menstrual cycles, skip their periods or experience other symptoms of menopause described below.
Some common symptoms that may occur before, during and after menopause include hot flashes and night sweats, body aches and pains, dry skin, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, urinary frequency and sleeping difficulties.
You can still get pregnant as long as you are menstruating, even if your menstrual cycles are less frequent . If you have sex and do not wish to become pregnant, some form of birth control is recommended. If you have not menstruated for 12 months, however, it is safe to say that you have undergone menopause and are unlikely to get pregnant.
If you are above the age of 45 and are experiencing symptoms and signs of menopause, which do not affect your daily life, you do not have to consult a doctor. However, you should see the doctor if you have symptoms that are affecting your quality of life — for example, if you are experiencing hot flashes that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, are feeling sad, are losing interest in things or are facing difficulties in coping with family life or work.
You should also see a doctor if you menstruate more often than once in three weeks, experience heavy menstrual bleeding or are spotting between periods. Book an appointment with a doctor if you have undergone menopause, with no bleeding for 12 months, and start bleeding again too.
Educating yourself on what may happen during the menopause transition is a good starting point.
Paying attention to your health, by not smoking, eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and incorporating some relaxation techniques, may also help to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
You can also adopt some self-management strategies to relieve the severity of symptoms associated with menopause. These include carrying a fan and facial spray, dressing lightly, avoiding spicy food, red meat, caffeine and alcohol, and having cool drinks to offer some relief from hot flushes.
Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT) is believed to reduce menopausal symptoms . Experts think these hormones are effective and safe for many women in their 40s and 50s who have symptoms of menopause. However, each individual needs to weigh the benefits of each treatment against the risk of side effects such as thromboembolism (blood clots) and breast cancer.
You should not undergo hormone therapy if you have had breast cancer, a heart attack, stroke or a blood clot. Any woman who undergoes MHT should be reviewed regularly by her doctor. Doctors may also prescribe other drugs, such as antidepressants to relieve symptoms like hot flashes and depression.
Lower levels of oestrogen, brought on by menopause, can cause the loss of bone mass. This increases your risk of osteoporosis — a disease that weakens the bones — after menopause. To slow the rate of bone loss, you should increase your intake of calcium and vitamin D, perhaps via supplements. Staying active and exercising regularly can also help to keep your bones strong and improve your balance.
Women above the age of 40 are at higher risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Be sure to go for regular health screenings as these diseases may not exhibit symptoms in their early stages. If you are above the age of 40 and are undergoing menopause, go for regular breast cancer screenings. If you are menopausal and above the age of 50, be sure to go for regular colon cancer screenings. Sexually active women should also have regular Pap smears.
You may experience physical and emotional changes during menopause, but that doesn’t mean that life has taken a turn for the worse!
At this stage of life, many women are prompted to “take stock” of their lives and set new goals. Juggling multiple roles and responsibilities as a mother, caregiver and working professional may start to take a toll on you. As such, it is important to create some “me time” as it adds balance to your life. Menopause is a new beginning: it’s a good time to assess your lifestyle and health, and start striving for continuing “wellness” in the next phase of your life.
This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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