Menopause : What is it and why do I need to know about it?

You may have heard about another friend’s menopause stories but menopause is different for every woman. It is therefore important to be well informed about this third stage of life in a woman.

It is a time of change. Change can be exciting, a bit scary….. BUT MENOPAUSE need not be scary. All the changes are perfectly normal.

What is menopause?

It is a time when women stop having their monthly periods. It is a change of life. It is a new beginning. It is a time when one’s ovaries have run out of follicles (eggs) and therefore stop producing hormones, especially estrogen. It is a normal part of being a woman, and all women go through it.

When?

No one can be sure. Every woman is different. Most women reach menopause around 50 years, but many women start the changes in their 40’s.

Your best clue to timing of your menopause is your mother. Your menopause will be around the time when she had hers, with few alterations depending on lifestyle e.g. women who smoke get menopause about 2 years earlier than they otherwise would have.

How do I know?

  • It doesn’t happen all at once. It is a slow process, usually taking 3-6 years, and is complete only when a woman hasn’t had periods for 12months in a row.
  • Natural menopause: Your body will give you few clues that the process might have started.
  • Changes in your periods: – Missing periods, having more frequent periods, bleeding lesser or more than usual. This may happen for one or more years before they stop forever
  • Hot flashes and nights sweats – feelings of heat in the face and upper part of the body for few seconds or minutes on and off.
  • Dry vagina with possible itching and uncomfortable feeling during sex.
  • Bladder control problems: – some women may leak urine when they sneeze; cough and sometimes if they don’t get to the bathroom on time.
  • Mood swings and easy irritability.
  • Memory changes.
  • Having aches in the bones. Bones become weak after menopause because of deficiency of estrogen hormone from the ovaries. The main bones affected are the back, hip and arms.

Will all these changes happen to everyone?

No!! Menopause is different for every woman. Some have many changes, others just a few.

What can one do to feel better and stay healthy at this time of change?

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Exercise regularly-walk, ride a cycle, use stairs.
  • Eat healthy and get enough calcium and vitamin D.
  • Stay in cool areas and wear loose clothing.
  • Talk to family and friends about it.
  • Learn new ways to relax e.g. meditation.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Ask for HELP if you need it. Don’t suffer quietly.

Does one need to see a health care provider?

Yes. Your doctor can be a big help as you go through this transition. You can discuss about your changes in periods, how you are feeling and about your chances of having weak bones.

Does everyone need medication?

No!! Many women will not need medication during menopause, but some need them to help cope with severe symptoms.

Treatment options!

Treatment is varied and depends on the symptoms, ranging from dietary advice to herbal medicines (like soy proteins), to hormonal medicine for vasomotor symptoms and other medicines for bones only. One needs to see a doctor to advise an individualized management plan as per profile of the patient. Every woman is different and may require different treatment schedules.