Menopause simply means:
*A woman will not be having periods anymore. Hence she will not be able to get pregnant. It certainly does not mean that she has lost her womanhood or feminity.
Menopause is that point in time when periods stop forever. You can know that you had a menopause, only after a year has passed, and the period has not resumed.
Usual age for menopause is 51 years. (But it can be upto 55 years. Those who have before 40 have early menopause.)
Before the period actually stops, a woman undergoes some change in life symptoms. This period of transition is called PERIMENOPAUSE
Why is it important for you to know about menopause?
The change in menopause can be divided into Short term and Long term.
In the short term:
It is important to know in advance that while approaching menopause a woman undergoes certain physical and psychological symptoms, whose awareness helps her and her family (especially the spouse) to understand her situation and tackle it better.
• Periods start to get more and more irregular about 4-5 years prior to menopause. Some get it scanty, while in some they become heavy due to hormonal imbalance.
• Woman may feel sudden feeling of a heat wave and then sweating, called Hot Flashes. They can come anytime in the day, at night f during sleep, and can be very annoying to the woman. It is mainly because of the fluctuating hormone levels in the body.
• Mood swings may occur, with crying spells and even depression in some.
• Dryness and thinning in the vaginal walls, difficulty in holding capacity of urine,
• Stress, trouble sleeping, forgetfulness and feeling of laziness- if you are not prepared for the menopause mentally and physically.
MYTH 1: That menopause will make a woman less interested in her sexual life. It may happen with some, but for some others, they feel more relaxed as there is no fear of getting pregnant.
MYTH 2: In the late forties when the periods get irregular, many women think they will not get pregnant anymore and get relaxed on using birth control. This often causes them to get pregnant unexpectedly. Hence, do not stop contraception unless periods have completely stopped.
In the long term:
• It is very important to realise that with the present life span of 70+ years now the woman spends at least ( if not more) a third or 40% of their life after menopause. Hence it is important to know how to stay healthy in this period of life.
• A woman becomes as vulnerable to heart disease as any man, as high oestrogens previously protected her from heart attacks or stroke.
• With menopause the bone density goes down rapidly and a woman after some years may develop thinning of bones called Osteoporosis
(Osteoporosis is a serious problem. If not taken care this can have serious after effects. Check for it in the next blog).
What should you do?
Know that menopause is a normal change in a woman’s life and it has to come when you are around 50. Hence better be mentally and physically prepared for it.
What preparations do you need to do?
EASY: If not earlier, when you enter into forties, MAKE A CHANGE IN YOUR LIFESTYLE.
STEP 1: Exercise, exercise, exercise:
Benefits of exercise are too many:
• This make menopausal symptoms less severe
• It will keep heart healthy after menopause
• Prevent bone loss or osteoporosis after the menopause
• Will prevent weight gain after menopause.
STEP 2: Stop smoking, reduce on tea and coffee- as they all increase bone loss, smoking increases risk of heart disease.
STEP 3: Take Vitamin supplements, especially Calcium and Vitamin D. The daily dose required for women around 50 is Calcium 1200 mgs and Vitamin D 800 micrograms.
STEP 4: Keep reminding yourself, menopause hasn’t taken your womanhood away or that you are old. Keep a good sense of humour and consider it a good change.
TIP: It is likely the time when children are older, or may even leave home …so empty nest syndrome can make you feel more depressed. Develop hobbies which will keep you stimulated and stress free. If the children have grown up and you have fewer responsibilities, do think of dedicating some time to public service and giving back to the society.
Hint: teach a poor child, join a social work, etc.
Is there any treatment of menopausal problems?
If tolerable, the symptoms may need no treatment and just reassurance. But if unbearable, you need to SEE A DOCTOR for advice or medications.
The most immediate problem during the menopause to most women is HOT FLASHES. To minimize them:
• Try to avoid things that may trigger hot flashes, like spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress, being in a hot place.
• Dress in layers, and remove some when you feel a flash starting.
• Use a fan in your home or workplace.
• Try taking slow, deep breaths when a hot flash starts
• There are medications too to help in hot flashes, but for that you need to see a doctor.
For vaginal dryness or discomfort there are water based gels or oestrogen creams, which help, and can v be asked from a doctor’s advice.
The main problem is however the long term bones loss. But this can be prevented too.
- To keep your bones strong, you need weight-bearing exercise, suchas walking, climbing stairs, or using weights.
- You can also protect bone health by eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, or by taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.
- Not smoking also helps protect your bones.
Are there Alternative Therapies?
There are certain herbal and natural remedies too. eg Soy which contain natural phyto oestrogens in foods like Tofu, soya milk, soya beans. There are other names too like black cohosh, Oil of evening primrose etc, but they have not n been well researched. Do talk to your doctor before taking them, in case they clash with your medications.
CAUTION: After you have had a menopause, if ever the period returns, it is not a normal period. It could be something serious causing the bleeding. Hence do not ignore and show to your doctor as soon as possible.
Last of all: Maintain high spirits, and good sense of humor. Do not think this as a negative change in life. Return to your childhood, playfulness is possible.