Menopause - Women's Health
Menopause - "The Change"
Menopause is commonly referred to as "The Change". This is when a woman's menstrual periods stop completely, thus ending her fertility. Menopause can happen naturally, or be brought on by the removal of both ovaries. Typically, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 65, but can be earlier or later. When a woman has not had a menstrual period for an entire year, she has gone through menopause.
Signs and Symptoms
Physical and psychological signs and symptoms vary from woman to woman. They usually span a time period of about 1-2 years. This time span is known as perimenopause. These symptoms are due to decrease in the hormone estrogen, stress, and the natural aging process. All women will not have all of the symptoms, some will have more, and each woman will vary as to the intensity of the symptoms. Listed below are the most common symptoms associated with peri-menopause.
- Hot Flashes - One of the most widely known symptoms of peri-menopause is the hot flashes. Hot flashes usually start in the abdomen or chest, and feel like a sudden burning (on fire) feeling that spreads to the neck and face, and sometimes the entire body. The first few times this happens can be scary, thus triggering an anxiety response, thereby intensifying the hot flash. Some women have heart palpitations during hot flashes. (A heart palpitation feels like a fluttering or thump in your chest, or a missed beat.) Hot flashes occur mostly later in the day, and of course during hot weather. (Or in a hot room.) Approximately seventy-five percent of women going through peri-menopause experience hot flashes. Duration and intensity vary from woman to woman.
- Night Sweats - Night sweats are hot flashes that happen while you are sleeping. Wake from sleep soaking wet from sweat, throw off the covers, go back to sleep, wake up chilled. This is a typical night sweat.
- Irregular Periods - This symptom also varies greatly from woman to woman, and from period to period. Periods can be longer and heavier, with clots which can cause anemia. They can become lighter and shorter. They can stop for a few a few months and then start back more widely spaced than before.
- Vaginal Dryness - Vaginal dryness is a result of changing hormones and thinning vaginal wall.
- Headaches and Dizziness
- Loss of Bladder Tone - Loss of bladder tone can, and usually does, cause stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is when urine leaks from the bladder when coughing, sneezing, laughing, jumping, running, or exercising.
- Skin Changes - Skin becomes thinner and wrinkles more easily
- Hair Changes - Hair may thin and become more brittle and dry, and / or finer. Body hair may become more noticeable as estrogen declines.
- Loss of Muscle Tone and Strength
- Mood Swings
- Anxiety / Depression
- Difficulty Concentrating / Remembering
- Sleeping Difficulties
Treatment and Relief Strategies
For some lucky women, symptoms cause very little distress, and no treatment is necessary. For the rest of us, listed below are some relief strategies.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) - Hormone replacement therapy can reduce the severity of the symptoms associated with peri-menopause. HRT can reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis associated with the decrease in estrogen. Some women may benefit from antidepressants and / or anti-anxiety medications. Vitamin E is also recommended for some. Seek medical advice before taking any medications. Have your doctor prescribe medications suited for you. Never take someone else's prescription medication.
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats - There are many ways to cool down hot flashes. Wear light clothing that allows airflow. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. Do not overeat. Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water. Avoid hot beverages. Use the air conditioner and / or fans. Keep a mist bottle with cool water nearby and spritz yourself lightly when you feel a hot flash coming on. Relax. Anxiety only makes it worse. Add soy to your diet. At night, open a window, or use a ceiling fan. Only use a sheet to cover yourself. Wear light sleeping apparel (or nothing at all).
- Vaginal Dryness - Avoid using deodorant or perfumed cleansers in the vaginal area. A mild baby soap or oatmeal based soap is fine. Don't use tampons. Have a water based lubricant such as K-Y on hand. Never use oils or petroleum based products as they can seal in bacteria that could cause infection, and encourage the growth of yeast. Have sex often!! This keeps the vagina from constricting, helps promote natural lubrication, and increases pelvic muscle tone. Reaching orgasm is key. Also ladies, do your kegels. You know what they are. Kegels will also help with the urinary incontinence.
- Psychological Symptoms - For the psychological symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression, eat a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly. Learn Yoga, or some other relaxation technique. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Take a deep cleansing breath in through your nose, and then out through your mouth slowly. Talk to other women who have, or who are going through the same thing. Sometimes, just knowing that others have survived the same thing is a relief.
How about you?
Have you been through menopause?
I hope this information has been helpful to you. Please feel free to answer the poll question, and leave me a comment or feedback! Thank you so much for reading!
© 2013 Cynthia