Menopause means the end of menstruation.
More specifically, it's the last minute of your final period. But the changes
that lead up to menopause, and the settling down after, usually span several
years. The medical term for this time is the climacteric, but traditionally most
of us know it as the "change of life." Your ovaries are your body's
main producers of the female hormone estrogen. As you approach menopause they
gradually stop work and the level of this hormone drops dramatically. Your
periods stop and it's no longer possible, in the usual way, to get pregnant.
It Happen ?
Will I Recognize It ?
Other Symptoms Are There?
Irritability and Mood Swings
Menopause may occur as early
as 35, or as late as 60. There are no hard and fast rules. But most women will
stop menstruating in their mid forties to early fifties. A few women simply stop
having periods, but this is rare. Most women start to get signs of menopause
many months before it actually happens.
The first sign is often a
change in your menstrual cycle. Your periods may become irregular or less
frequent, or they may become longer or shorter. Usually the menstrual flow
lessens, but very often a light period will be followed by a heavy one, or you
may even get "flooding." Sometimes there is a gap of months between
the last few periods. You may think they have stopped--then be surprised by
another. During this time it is possible to become pregnant so, to be safe, do
not abandon contraception until you have not had a period for at least two
not only regulates reproduction but it also affects your body temperature, mood
and bones and ligaments. So hormone changes at menopause can have wide-ranging
effects such as fatigue, night sweats and mood swings.
These usually start a few
months before menopause and end a year or two after it. You may get just one hot
flash a day, or several an hour. Each one feels as though you have been plunged
into a sauna for a few minutes. When they happen at night you may wake up bathed
in sweat. Flashes may be accompanied by dizziness, nausea and heart
palpitations. These may scare you, but they are simply the natural response to a
sudden rise in body temperature.
Wearing loose clothing and avoiding
synthetic fabrics, which trap perspiration, may help you feel more comfortable.
It's also a good idea to keep your rooms well ventilated, especially your
bedroom at night.
Are also common, and so is a peculiar
feeling "crawling" under the skin called formication. Pains in the
joints and muscles are also reported during menopause, and some women get
swollen hands, ankles and feet. Regular exercise will help keep you more
flexible and your muscles strong.
In menopausal women used to be
dismissed as a psychological reaction to getting older. Now researchers believe
that fluctuating hormone levels directly affect the part of the brain that
controls moods and feelings. Relaxation exercises like yoga, progressive
relaxation exercise and meditation may make it easier to cope but if the
feelings get really bad, talk to your doctor.
There is no reason for your
sex life to decline after menopause. The fall in estrogen may cause the inside
of your vagina to become dry, making sexual intercourse painful. But lubricating
gels purchased over the counter or estrogen creams and hormone replacement
therapy prescribed by your doctor may restore moisture and elasticity.
After menopause, lack of
estrogen allows calcium to leave your bones, and in time this may make the bones
brittle and fragile, a condition called osteoporosis. You can help to avoid this
by exercising regularly with weight bearing exercises ( weight training,
walking, etc.), and eating calcium-rich foods like spinach, broccoli, cheese,
sardines and peanuts, and drinking skim milk. Or you can talk to your doctor
about taking calcium supplements or going on hormone replacement therapy.
Because menopause marks the end of
your child-bearing years, you may expect it to be a time of sadness. But there
is another way of looking at it. If you have had a family, the ties of
child-rearing will be behind you. You may at last be free to do what you want to
do, and often the maturity signaled by menopause brings greater confidence. When
the hormonal changes have settled, you may experience a surge of new energy. And
once you are free from worrying about contraception, you might discover a new
relaxation and satisfaction in your sex life.
Hormonal Replacement Therapy
effectively treats most menopausal symptoms. It will also help to keep your skin
and hair looking good and, more importantly, it will give some protection
against osteoporosis, heart disease and strokes. HRT does have its drawbacks
though. Some women experience belatedness, sore breasts and cramps. And
prolonged use can increase the risk --very slightly- of breast cancer. For this
reason, it is important that your doctor be consulted before you make a decision
on whether or not you should use HRT.
Some doctors start prescribing HRT at the first signs of menopause. This may be
up to a couple of years before menstruation actually stops. Others prefer to
wait until periods have ceased altogether.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
HRT usually means that you continue to
experience a monthly blood loss, although a few types of HRT will prevent
bleeding. Blood flow is usually less than a normal period.