- Fertility & Reproductive Systems
Menopause - A New Phase In The Life of Women
What is Menopause?
It is the point in time when menstrual cycle permanently stops due to the natural depletion of ovarian oocytes. An oocyte is a cell in the ovary that undergoes meiotic division to form an ovum. A woman can be diagnosed as menopausal if she has missed her menstrual cycle for more than 12 consecutive months.
Levels of estrogen declines and the levels of progesterone and other hormones also change. The hormonal changes characteristics of menopause last for few years but afterwards it stabilizes and the body gets used to the change.
Some Myths Associated With Menopause
Myth: It involves lots of suffering
Truth:Majority of women have very little symptoms which eventually disappears after about a year or so. Most common symptom is the hot flushes.
Myth: End of femininity
Truth: There is no risk of unwanted pregnancy, no PMS or periods. Many women are able to enjoy their sex life better.
Myth: Menopause means beginning of ill health
Truth: More than one-third women suffer from iron deficiency while they are menstruating. Menopause ends this regular loss of iron. Also women suffering from long-term gynecological problems like fibroids or endometriosis find relief after the menopause. With right food and proper life style a woman can avoid later life complications like osteoporosis and heart disease.
Myth: Menopause leads to depression
Truth: There is as such no evidence to support this belief. Rather the mood swing involved with PMS disappears for good.
Stages of Menopause
Perimenopause: This stage usually starts few years before menopause, when ovaries produce less estrogen. This period lasts till menopause when ovaries stop releasing the ovums. A year or two before menopause, the levels of estrogen drops sharply leading to the menopausal symptoms in many women.
Menopause: A woman can be stated to have entered menopause if she hadn't had her menstrual cycle for more than a year.
Postmenopause: These are years after menopause when the main menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes begin to disappear.
Symptoms of Menopause
The most common symptom is the hot flushes. It is a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads through the upper body along with sweating. other symptoms are:
- Breast lumpiness
- Breast pain
- Irregular period
- Mood swings
- Painful periods
- Heavy menstruation
- Change in libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
If some of these symptoms cause too much problem then treatment might be necessary. The symptoms that start late in menopause are mainly due to the depletion of estrogen level. The most common remedies is the estrogen replacement. But the problems that are there in the early menopause are usually due to higher level of estrogen in relation to progesterone. Thus, using more estrogen can actually aggravate the condition.
Some Common Questions Associated With Menopause
Q. What should be done if there are hot flushes?
It is the classic symptom of menopausal change, the most effective treatment of which is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Q. If a woman goes without period for few months, does that mean she is menopausal?
Not necessarily. There are other factors to be considered. If the age is above 45 and there were instances of hot flushes and irregular periods, then probably the woman has probably started the menopausal transition. If the woman is under 45 and there were no menopausal symptoms then doctor should be consulted.
Q. When should one stop using contraceptives?
For woman over 50 then contraceptives can be stopped if she goes without period for one year. But if someone experiences early menopause then it is safer to use contraceptives for couple of years.
Q. If the mother experienced early menopause is the same likely to happen to daughter?
It is possible as premature menopause sometimes run in the family.
Q. If a woman is in her thirties and has not conceived yet, how long can she put it off?
On average, fertility of women start declining from mid to late thirties when perimenopausal symptoms begin to appear. It is better not to wait till the hormonal levels declining significantly.
Q. What are the risks of taking HRT?
Risks of taking HRT varies with age, health and medical history. The increased risk of cancer is small but significant. Unless one is suffering badly from hot flushes and night sweats doctors do not usually recommend taking HRT.
Q. Is the weight gain unavoidable post menopause?
It is a common problem experienced by most women. It occurs due to the hormonal changes in the body. But the problem can be countered using nutrition and proper exercise.
Some Important Action Plans
- In case there are symptoms find out the cause. It may not be related to hormones, but some other health conditions.
- If the symptoms are hormonal then tests can be done to find out the stage of perimenopause one is in. This might be important for those who do not yet have children but plan to have.
- There are medical as well as other complimentary therapies which can help ease the problems.
- Some healthy life style changes can be helpful.
- Menopausal symptoms are just a passing phase. So don't let it get you down.
If you used HRT was it helpful?
Though there are lots of problems associated with it, menopause is a natural stage of life. Most women have minor problems and many don't face any problem at all. But there are some who face major issues which can be taken care of by either medication or life-style changes or a combination of both. There are those who have premature menopause for various reasons. If anyone wants to have children and already having telltale menopausal symptoms consult your doctors to check your fertility.