Menopause usually starts between the ages of 40 and 58 years. In some cases it may occur earlier due to a medical condition or certain treatment which required the removal of the ovaries. Menopause results in symptoms such as hot flashes, sudden night sweats, and vaginal dryness. It further causes anxiety, changes in mood, and a reduced sex drive. These symptoms can last for several years and impact a person’s quality of life.
The three stages of menopause:
Perimenopause is the transitional time that starts before menopause and includes the 12 months that follow a person’s last period.
Postmenopause is the years after menopause.
Signs and symptoms
When you are undergoing menopause, various physical and mental changes can occur. Some symptoms may begin to appear before menopause and some continue after it.
Menopause also means the end of the reproductive stage. Right before menopause begins, estrogen levels fall. This typically reduces your chances of becoming pregnant.
The first sign of menopause is usually periods occurring less regularly. They may come more or less frequently than usual, and they may be heavier or lighter. Other factors may also cause irregularities in menstruation and you must see a doctor.
Vaginal dryness and discomfort
Vaginal dryness, itching, and discomfort may start during early menopause and continue for long. A person with any of these symptoms may find it uncomfortable to have vaginal sex. Also, if the skin breaks, this can increase the risk of infection. Atrophic vaginitis can sometimes occur during menopause. You can use moisturizers, lubricants, and medications to relieve vaginal dryness and associated issues, after consulting a doctor.
Hot flashes are common to experience around the time of menopause. It can make a person feel a sudden sensation of heat. You may start sweating and some red patches form on the skin. Hot flashes can continue for up to 14 years after menopause.
Sleep problems are also caused during menopause, and it may be due to anxiety, night sweats and an increased need to urinate. You must exercise daily and avoiding eating heavy meals before bedtime.
While these are only physical changes you may notice, there are several emotional changes that occur due to menopause:
It is likely to feel anxious when you are experiencing menopause. Increased irritability and crying spells may occur too. These do not necessarily indicate depression and a doctor will be able to advise you about the best course of action.
Trouble focusing and learning
During menopause women may find it difficult to concentrate. Staying physically and mentally active is very important to cope up with menopause symptoms. You may find a new hobby or join a club or a local activity.
The hormonal changes of menopause may lead to weight gain especially around your abdomen. This can further result in serious health issues and you must not ignore it.
Increased risk of some health conditions include:
Osteoporosis: This is a long-term condition where bone strength and density decreases. A doctor may recommend you to take supplements and eat calcium rich foods.
Cardiovascular disease: With a decline in estrogen levels due to menopause there is an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Breast cancer: Some types of breast cancer are more likely to develop after menopause owing to the hormonal changes involved.
Urinary tract infection: During menopause, some women may also have urinary tract infections. Along with lowered levels of estrogen and changes in the urinary tract make women more prone to infection. The persistent urge to urinate, urinating more frequently, or feeling a burning sensation while urinating are signs of infection and you may need antibiotics.
Apart from these, skin and hair quality may also be affected. Loss of fatty tissue and collagen makes your skin drier and thinner. Reduced estrogen contributes to increased hair loss or causes hair to feel brittle and dry. Harsh chemical hair treatments may cause further damage.
Lifestyle changes to make during menopause:
- Regular exercise
- Practicing relaxation and deep breathing
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Quitting smoking and limiting the intake of alcohol.
- You may seek counseling sessions for better mental health.
- Sleep well and rest whenever you feel tired.
- Explore new ways of enjoying intimacy with your partner
You must remember that each person will likely experience menopause differently. While some have full, active lives throughout the transition period and afterward, some feel relieved by no longer having to deal with menstruation or birth control and some may require help to feel okay about this new phase of life. Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle will help a person feel better.