Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycle stops, and she becomes infertile. It is a completely natural process which every woman will go through at some point. It occurs when the ovaries stop working and producing the usual amount of estrogen and progesterone. This disturbance in hormone levels is what causes the symptoms of menopause. Otherwise, artificial menopause can occur when the ovaries have been surgically removed or affected by medical treatment.
On average, women are expected to reach natural menopause by the time they are aged 52, however, anytime between the ages of 45 and 55 is considered completely normal.
Symptoms Of Menopause
During menopause, as the body stops releasing eggs in preparation for conception every month, the body produces less and less of the female hormones. Eventually, this will result in the periods stopping. This process does not happen steadily, however; in fact, the ovarian decline is interspersed and has episodes of completely normal function in between. This is why a majority of women will experience an irregular menstrual cycle and inconsistency in their menopausal symptoms.
It is estimated that one-third of women only suspect they are approaching menopause once they have a change in their menstrual cycle. Periods can get shorter, longer, heavier, or even lighter and can occur closer together or further apart. They are unpredictable in their patterns but will eventually stop altogether.
The female hormones affect other parts of the body and due to their fluctuating levels during menopause, they can cause some of the following symptoms;
- Hot flushes and night sweats. This is one of the most common symptoms where the individual suddenly feels extremely overheated and uncomfortable.
- Disturbed sleep at night. This is especially common if the woman is suffering from night sweats.
- Feeling tired, exhausted, emotional, and angry. These emotional changes can be put down to hormonal changes as well as disturbed sleep and having to adjust to change.
- Skin appearing more fatigued and less firm.
- Body hair and hair on the head thinning out.
- UTIs and incontinence.
Once a woman has hit menopause she is at a higher risk of oestrogen-deficient disorders such as osteoporosis. This is when the bones start to get thinner, causing them to become brittle and more likely to fracture from minor injuries.
The main treatment available for menopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can be prescribed by a doctor in the form of tablets, patches, implants and gels. Although the long term effects of HRT are still under debate, the treatment has been shown to be effective and safe for short term (three to five years) relief of menopausal symptoms.
Otherwise, despite menopause being an unpreventable and natural part of life, there are other ways to ease symptoms, which include;
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol to reduce the frequency of hot flushes
- Exercising regularly to improve overall mood and emotions as well as to protect the bones and improving any symptoms of incontinence
- Using relaxation techniques, counselling, and having a strong support system around to reduce levels of stress
Many of the symptoms of menopause end up declining and disappearing within a few years. If you suspect you are showing symptoms of early menopause or are having difficulty in dealing with the condition, you can speak to your doctor or healthcare provider for more information and further management options.
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Medical information published on this website is of a general nature only and not intended to be a substitute for informed healthcare professional advice or clinical care. If you have specific healthcare concerns or issues you should consult with a qualified health care professional such as your own GP.