- Fertility & Reproductive Systems
Manage your Menopause
Menopause is not the end of Life !
The reproductive life of a woman ends at Menopause when she stops menstruating, which means she can no longer conceive and have children. It is nature`s way of limiting the human population. Menopause usually happens at around 45-50 years of age. If a woman has had no periods for a full one year, she is declared to have attained her menopause. The cause for the onset of menopause is the decline in the levels of the female hormone 'estrogen', produced by the ovary, situated beside the uterus(womb), one on either side, which in turn is regulated by the pituitary gland of the brain. The brain had already 'programmed' the onset of menopause and the ovary is inhibited from producing eggs and the hormone estrogen. Smoking can cause an early onset of menopause. If a woman undergoes surgery for the removal of the uterus along with the ovaries(Total Hysterectomy), menopause sets in automatically, since both the target organ, the uterus, and the source of the hormone, the ovary, are both removed.
However some women have the misconception that it is the end of their active life, which is far from the truth. The transitional phase could however be stressful for many women, with a number of physical and mental symptoms.On attaining menopause the production of the female hormones by the ovary declines, but the the adrenal glands situated on top of the kidneys continue to produce the hormones albeit in lesser quantities. The symptoms related to menopause start many years prior to the actual cessation of menses. A 'Hot Flush' is the commonest symtom. It consists of a sudden feeling of heat, followed by heavy sweating and cold shivering. The flush usually lasts for 30 seconds to a full 10 minutes. The woman may complain of insomnia i.e. difficulty in falling asleep. She may awaken suddenly in the night and find it difficult going back to sleep again. She may also experience night sweats. The woman may also have sudden mood changes and be irritable frequently. She may have memory problems too, forgetting things and events easily. She may have aching of joints and muscles. There may be incontinence of urine with recurrent urinary tract infections and the woman may complain of dryness in the genital area, causing discomfort during physical intimacy.
The hormone estrogen exercises a protective effect against 'Heart disease' and bone loss (osteoporosis) during her reproductive life. The reduction in estrogen levels at menopause causes more bone loss than could be replaced, resulting in the condition called ' Osteoporosis' in which the bones become weak and fragile, with a high risk of fracture. The risk of developing heart disease now equals that in men. There is need for regular check ups of the blood pressure and lipid levels and appropriate medication taken if indicated, under physician supervision. A supplementation of 1000mg of calcium per day is very useful since dietary intake is unpredicatable. Menopause could induce weight gain which needs to be controlled through diet and exercise. It would help the bones if weight bearing exercises like walking, dancing etc are undertaken for atleast three days in a week.
If symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, irritability and incontinence of urine with frequent infections are causing much distress, 'Hormone replacement therapy(HRT)' would help control the symptoms. However the lowest dose that works should be used for the shortest time to avoid the side effects. The post menopausal woman should eat a diet low in fat but rich in fibre with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Smoking should be avoided.
Since the risk and fear of pregnancy are gone, the woman who has attained menopause should be experiencing a new sense of freedom and energy !