- Women's Health
Menopause My Own Private Summer
What is Menopause
Menopause is the permanent end to menstruation. Menopause is not an illness,as we women like to think. It is a natural biological process that women go through later in their life. Menopause occurs when the woman's ovaries run out of functioning eggs. Woman are born with 1 million to 3 million eggs. As she ages these eggs are lost due to a dying off of eggs which is normal and through menstruation. By the time a woman reaches menopause she has about 10,000 eggs but they are non functioning. The way I see it, after 30 some odd years of a monthly menses the only good thing about menopause is the ending of this menstruation. The average age that women enter menopause is 52 in the United States, and the length of this stage varies with each woman. The signs and symptoms of menopause can occur before you have actually stopped your monthly menstruation. The symptoms are also varied in their degree of severity from woman to woman.
The Symptoms of Menopause
Some of the symptoms of menopause can include,
- Irregular periods
- Decreased fertility
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased abdominal fat
- Mood swings
- Thinning hair
- Loss of breast fullness
- The loss of sexual interest
These symptoms are different in each women and the severity of each is varied from woman to woman.
The most common reason we woman go through menopause is a decline in reproductive hormones. This is a natural progression as we age. Our ovaries start making less estrogen and progesterone , the hormones that regulate menstruation. There are other causes that can bring on menopause before the natural processes take place in our bodies.
- A total hysterectomy with ovary removal stops your menses immediately, but you can still get the symptoms of menopause.
- Chemotherapy and Radiation can induce menopause.
- Primary Ovarian insufficiency where your ovaries don't produce sufficient amounts of the reproductive hormones. This can occur because of an autoimmune disease or genetic factors.
2 Stages of Menopause
There are basically 2 stages of menopause that women go through. The first is called Perimenopause. In this stage your will start to experience the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings to name a few. During this Perimenopause stage you will still have your monthly menses but it will become irregular. You can also still become pregnant but it is less likely because your ovaries are starting to produce less reproductive hormones. This stage can last from 4 to 5 years and longer in some women. Once you have stopped your menstruation for a period of 12 months you have reached menopause. Your ovaries have stopped producing progesterone and lessened the production of estrogen. The years that follow are called postmenopause.
Reduced Production of Estrogen
Because of your reduced production of estrogen women are more susceptible to a variety of medical complications. Your risk of heart disease increases as your estrogen production decreases. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density that can rapidly increase after menopause causing an increased risk of fracture of the bones. Urinary Incontinence is a problem where your vaginal tissue loses its elasticity causing you to experience an involuntary loss of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or strain when you lift something. Weight gain is another complication when your body starts to produce less estrogen and diet and exercise can help with this problem. All in all we go from the awful years of menstruation to the equally awful menopause and the risks involved with that.
My "Meanopause...errr Menopause"
I love the part about the ending of menstruation. It's the only good thing about menopause or Meanopause as my husband calls it. I went through a period where it seemed I was always mad about something, always yelling. One day my husband asked me what I was mad about and I didn't know, I was just mad. This is a troubling part of menopause. Thankfully this extreme anger only lasted a few months. The menfolk in my house felt unjustly persecuted, and rightly so, but as I explained to them, I wasn't having much fun either. I didn't ask for this. I live in a part of the country that has 4 seasons, and winter which I never cared much for is a godsend when having a hot flash. Just go stand outside for a few minutes and you feel better. My hot flashes have been lessening the past year or so and I'm grateful for that. However the sleeping issue is still going strong. I used to be able to fall asleep within minutes of going to bed and now and for the past 3 or 4 years I have extreme difficulty getting to sleep,sometimes as long as 3 hours. Not only the inability to fall asleep I can't seem to control my body temperature. The covers on the bed are in constant motion. I take them off and almost as soon as I take them off I need them back. This goes on for hours until I fall asleep and then the night sweats take over. I wake up just drenched. I have to change the sheets on my bed every morning and these days I just do it automatically not even giving it a thought. It has become my daily morning routine. The upside of this is that I am getting pretty darn good at folding sheets. My husband calls my menopause my own private summer and it sure seems like it. I love being a woman. I wonder what the next thing life will throw at us.