The term Menopause means the final cessation or complete stoppage of the menstruation cycles or monthly periods. It occurs due to exhaustion of eggs from ovarian follicle and consequent estrogen deprivation. That means the woman’s ovaries stop producing hormones estrogen and progesterone. It can’t be avoided. Every menstruating woman passes through this. It is a natural, physiological change in a woman’s life.
The age at which menopause occurs varies widely from 40 to 55 years. The average age is about 48 years. The genetic makeup, race, and climate has an influence on the age of menopause. It is believed that early the menarche (starting of menstruation), the menopause will be late and late the menarche, then menopause will be early.
If the menopause happens before 35 years of age then it is referred as early menopause and if the menopause is after 55 years of age then it is referred as delayed menopause. The woman is said to be menopausal when she doesn’t have her periods for 1 year. A woman starts feeling the symptoms and signs of menopause, several months before the actual menopause. This transition period is referred as perimenopause. It is also a crucial time in her life when she needs the support and advice of the medical staff.
During menopause, a woman experiences different signs and symptoms. Some women easily cope up with these symptoms where as some women may need clinical and psychological help.
The symptoms of the menopause----
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes and night sweats: Hot flashes can strike once a day, or more often with increased heart rate, dizziness, headache and even claustrophobia or the feeling of being trapped.
- Sleep difficulties: It is often caused by a progesterone deficiency in perimenopause or menopause.
- Weight gain: Shifting of hormones causes storage of fat in the abdominal area, buttocks and breast area.
- Fatigue/loss of energy
- Forgetfulness or fuzzy thinking: most common
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Vaginal dryness leading to pain and itching: Due to changes in vaginal mucosa, it may affect sex drive.
- Low libido: vaginal dryness plus drop in progesterone or a testosterone causes low or no sex drive.
- Joint discomfort /stiffness: due to fluctuating hormonal level
- Food cravings: Certain food cravings may be there due to lack of nutrients.
- Digestive discomfort: flatulence, abdominal heaviness and bloating is a common symptom
- Anxiety and/or sadness: due to increased stress level and hormonal imbalance
- Irritability and/or moodiness: most common due to hormonal shift.
- PMS-like symptoms: bloating, breast tenderness, headaches or mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
Coping with menopause and perimenopause It is not the end but the beginning of the new phase of life. With a positive approach, information and knowledge, clinical and psychological help from the expert, interaction with peers, diet and exercise, you can step down into this new phase with confidence and ease. Some women may need hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) but need to check with doctor or health care provider.
Different alternatives, helpful during perimenopause and menopause
- Love, physical and emotional support from the partner and other family members helps to face the shift
- Healthy nutritional diet- It helps to maintain the energy, hormonal balance and sense of well-being. Specially the micronutrients in the fresh fruits and green vegetables are a good start up. Omega3 fatty acids are helpful to stabilize the cholesterol level and hormonal imbalance. You must lower the intake of high processed diet, sugar or sweets, simple starch as they have great impact on estrogen and progesterone hormones.
- Self care: Taking time for oneself is a big step to nurture self-awareness and find happiness in this transitional period
- Reducing stress level: interact with same age group women, meditation, yoga, regular exercise not only keep you healthy physically but emotionally also
- Life style modification