In this article we will look at:
- What is menopause?
- What kind of changes will occur when I approach the menopause period in my life?
- Can menopause affect my emotions?
- What is perimenopause?
- How long does perimenopause last?
- What is induced menopause?
- What is premature menopause?
- What is postmenopause?
- Now that I do not have periods anymore, can I stop taking contraceptives?
- What are the symptoms of menopause?
- What are the complications of menopause?
- How is menopause diagnosed or confirmed?
- Will the desire for sex decrease with menopause?
- How to counteract vaginal dryness during menopause?
- What are hot flashes?
- How will I know when the menopause is over?
- Are there any benefits of menopause?
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What is menopause?
Menopause is a natural event, which is confirmed when a woman stops menstruating for a period of straight twelve months. The functioning of the ovaries is reduced due to aging, which results in lower levels of estrogen and other hormones. Menopause is a milestone in a woman’s life marking the permanent end of the fertility period. It usually occurs between 45 to 50 years.
What kind of changes will occur when I approach the menopause period in my life?
The menopause experience varies from woman to woman. Many women do not report any major physical changes during this period leading to menopause, except for the irregular monthly periods, which eventually stops. Some women complain of hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, memory problems, and sudden weight gain during this period. These issues resolve on their own once menopause occurs. Till then it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, which will help to alleviate the symptoms, if any, in the long run.
Can menopause affect my emotions?
Most of the woman do not experience any severe symptoms during their menopausal years. Some, however, report symptoms of moodiness, depression, anxiety, and a decreased sense of well-being during the perimenopause period. Women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome or postpartum depression seem to be particularly vulnerable to mood swings during this period. Some women also undergo stress, midlife crisis, or experience sexual dysfunction and hot flashes. These could further affect her mood swings. The mood symptoms can also be related to erratic fluctuations in estrogen levels.
Depression related to menopause can be treated with anti-depressants. During this period if a woman leads a healthy lifestyle and focuses on activities she loves, it can help alleviate the symptoms a great deal.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the transition period between the fertile or reproductive years and menopause.
During this period women experience shorter menstrual intervals, irregular menses, night sweats, and other symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms can be troubling enough to require medical treatment.
How long does perimenopause last?
Perimenopause can last up to 4 years, but for some women, this stage may last for only a few months or can even continue for 10 years. This phase is over once the woman has gone 12 months without having her period.
What is induced menopause?
Induced menopause refers to forcibly stopping menstruation, which occurs after the surgical removal of the ovaries for example in procedures like oophorectomy, or chemotherapy or radiation which can cause damage to the ovaries. Induced menopause can also occur due to the use of medicines to intentionally induce menopause as part of the treatment for certain diseases.
Women who experience induced menopause experience the symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping and other symptoms of menopause, though this is not naturally occurring menopause.
What is premature menopause?
Menopause is called premature when it happens at age 40 or younger. This can be This occurs in about 1% of women in the United States. Premature menopause that is not induced can occur due to genetic, metabolic, or autoimmune factors. Premature menopause should be always be evaluated thoroughly because there could be an underlying condition that requires medical treatment.
What is postmenopause?
Postmenopause is all the years in a woman’s life after menopause occurs.
Now that I do not have periods anymore, can I stop taking contraceptives?
Women in the perimenopausal stage can get pregnant. Therefore, if you want to avoid getting pregnant it is advisable to continue with the contraceptive pills until a year after the final menstruation.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The symptoms of menopause include:
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Increased fat around the abdomen
What are the complications of menopause?
The complications below are associated with menopause, although menopause isn't often the sole cause of these conditions:
- Heart disease
- Urinary problems
- Weight gain
How is menopause diagnosed or confirmed?
Usually, women become aware when menopause is approaching even without a proper diagnosis due to the obvious signs and symptoms that accompany this stage of life.
However, your gynecologist can perform a blood test to confirm menopause. The test can show the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (which rises during menopause) and estrogen (which falls during menopause) levels.
Will the desire for sex decrease with menopause?
In some women, sexual desire wanes with menopause in others it can also increase.
Usually, sexual desire is seen to decrease with age in both sexes, and low desire is especially common in women in their 40s and 50s, though it is not universal.
There is a full range of psychological, cultural, personal, interpersonal and biological factors that can contribute to declining sexual interest. If in case declining sexual interest is bothering you, you could undergo a clinical evaluation to identify if there are any underlying medical or psychological causes which can then be addressed appropriately.
How to counteract vaginal dryness during menopause?
Vaginal dryness is a very common sign of menopause. This can lead to pain during sexual intercourse, or frequent urination, or increased urinary infections. Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can help. Regular sexual intercourse can also help preserve vaginal functions by increasing blood flow to the genital region and helping maintain the size of the vagina which tends to become smaller after menopause.
What are hot flashes?
The most common menopause-related discomfort is the hot flash which could be the result of changes in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates the body’s temperature. If the hypothalamus mistakenly senses that a woman is too warm, it starts a chain of events to cool her down which propels blood vessels on the surface of the skin to dilate, which increases the blood flow to the surface in an attempt to dissipate body heat. The woman, as a result, has a flushed look on her face and neck. This can also make a woman automatically sweat to cool the body. This, in turn, increases the heartbeat rate. So the hot flush is immediately followed by a cold chill. Some women experience only the chill.
How will I know when the menopause is over?
Menopause is officially over when you have not had a period for one year. If you did not have periods for 11 months and then you suddenly have it in the twelfth month, it means menopause is officially not over. Totally, the period free months together should add up to 12 in a row.
Are there any benefits of menopause?
Menopause is often greeted with dread, especially since many years women have been conditioned to believe that once they reach menopause they are “over the hill”. These days, however, with changing times, as women are getting more empowered, they are realizing that this stage of life gives them a new freedom for personal growth. In fact, these days many women are seen to take risks at the menopausal time of their lives, without waiting for anyone’s approval.
As women are beginning to question everything, they realize this is the time when they can gain a new perspective on many things and face this transition with a newfound wisdom and a dash of humour. It also helps to seek support from other women at the same stage in their lives.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Indian women and menopause
Nearly 4 per cent of Indian women experience signs of menopause between 29 and 34 years of age, says a recent survey conducted by The Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC). The figure goes up to 8 per cent in the case of women between 35 and 39 years of age.
Mean age of menopause in the world
What is shocking is that women around the world normally reach menopause between 45 and 55 years of age, with a mean age of around 51 years.
Causes of premature menopause
Lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, thyroid or auto-immune diseases, exposure to radiation like chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and poor nutrition are some of the main causes of premature menopause.
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