MENOPAUSE – DEALING WITH THE CHANGE
Domlur, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
Menopause, simply put, is the term used to define cessation of menstruation. It is said to have occurred when there has been no menstrual cycles for a period of 12 months and usually occurs anytime between the ages of 45 to 55 years.
Women undergo menopause through three stages, which usually merge into each other gradually:
- Perimenopause – the period of transition from normal menstruation to cessation of menstruation – the ovaries start releasing lesser ova (eggs) and secrete lesser oestrogen (an important hormone in females). Irregular menstrual cycles are common during this time, and it is important to note that pregnancy can still occur, as ova are still being released, although inconsistently.
- Menopause – the period of cessation of menstruation. This phase lasts 12 months, during which no menstrual cycles occur. There is a drop in oestrogen secretion and complete cessation of release of ova.
- Post-menopause – the period following the cessation of menstruation.
Symptoms of menopause include, but are not limited to:
- Hot flashes(up to 20 times a day)
- Mood swings
- Irregular, heavy or light menses
- Disturbed sleeppatterns
- Night sweats
- Decreased sexual desire
- Vaginal dryness
- Increased bladder infections
The risk for a few conditions, most significantly, osteoporosis (a condition wherein bones become brittle, leading to fractures after trivial impact) and atherosclerosis (accumulation of fatty plaques on blood vessel walls – causing decreased blood supply to areas supplied by these vessels) goes up significantly after menopause.
Tips to deal with menopause better
- Come to terms with the situation – It’s quite hard for some people to deal with menopause, given the symptoms. But coming to terms with the fact that it’s happening is the first step in successfully dealing with menopause.
- Confirmation – Seek medical advice. Blood tests (determination of Follicle Stimulating Hormone levels, usually) are rarely required. Most often, a diagnosis can be established on clinical grounds alone.
- Taking better care – physically and mentally – Adopting a healthier lifestyle, quitting smoking, controlling alcohol consumption, exercising regularly and adequately, consuming a healthy and balanced diet (with high quantities of calcium and vitamin D), can all help maintain physical well-being, and decrease the risk of osteoporosis and atherosclerosis in the post-menopausal period.
Regular follow-up with a doctor is quite important, to facilitate continuous assessment of signs of any complications.
Coming to the mental health standpoint, menopause can be a tiring time for most women. It is quite common to feel blue, angry, have irrational outbursts, etc.
Decreasing stress, meditating, indulging in a new hobby, recreational activities, exercising, etc. can help significantly elevate your mood.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – Replacement of deficient hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) can be tried to manage severe symptoms of menopause, and to decrease risks for complications, following advice of, and under the guidance of, a specialist in the field. This treatment is not commonly employed and needs to be monitored.
- Know when to visit a doctor – Irregular periods are common and normal during the perimenopausal phase, but other conditions can cause abnormalities in menstrual bleeding. If any of the following situations arise, one should see a doctor to rule out other causes:
- Menstrual periods change to become very heavy, or accompanied by blood clots
- Last several days longer than usual
- Spot or bleed after periods
- Spotting after sex
- Periods occur closer together
Potential causes of abnormal bleeding include hormonal imbalances, birth control pills, pregnancy, fibroids, blood clotting problems or, rarely, cancer.
In addition, other medical intervention may be required for depression (anti-depressants), vaginal dryness (oestrogen creams), urinary infections (symptomatic treatment +/- antibiotics), osteoporosis (vitamin D and Calcium supplementation, bisphosphonates, etc.)
In conclusion, menopause is something every woman has to go through, but how one go through it, is actually in their own hands.