Every female will go through menopause, as they approach old age and the reproductive system become redundant. The female reproductive system becomes active with the first menstruation and this occurs generally during the age range of 10-15 when a girl reaches puberty. Once the reproductive system is activated, a female will ovulate once a month. Before the egg reaches the uterus, oestrogen hormones will build up the uterus lining with blood and cushion it, in readiness for a fertilized egg. When this does not occur, the uterus sheds the tissue lining which was prepared for fertilization. The extricating of the blood, tissue and the unfertilised egg will cause menstruation. This continued every month as a part of the regular functioning of the female reproductive system. Menopause is the cessation of the menstrual period. The approximate age of a menopausal woman is over 50. However, this may differ from country to country and by the individual. Different types of psychological and physical changes go through a woman before and after menopause. These are referred to as menopause symptoms.Types and Stages of Menopause
Menopause can be divided into four sections. These are pre-menopause, peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause.
- Pre-menopause – Pre-menopause is the entire menstrual period from the time it began to the time of its cessation.
- Peri-menopause – This refers to the time when menstrual period is about to stop for good. The fluctuation and decline of hormone production begins with peri-menopause.
- Menopause – With menopause, the period will stop completely. This means that the ovaries stop the production of eggs which makes pregnancy impossible. The hormones responsible for pregnancy such as oestrogen and progesterone will decrease during menopause.
- Post-menopause – This is the time that marks one year after menopause till the rest of her life.
Causes of Menopause
Menopause is due to natural causes. Every woman will go through this bodily function towards the middle or latter part of their lives. The menopause symptoms occur when hormones responsible for ovulation and pregnancy, oestrogen and progesterone, decrease with time. This is the way the body functions and build natural barriers against possible pregnancies in old age which a woman will not be able to handle in old age, both physically and mentally. However, there are instances when menopause can be premature. Surgery such as a hysterectomy, ovarian failure, medically induced early menopause such as chemotherapy etc. can cause early or premature menopause.
Symptoms Associated with Menopause
Many women are unaware of the symptoms and will wonder “what are the symptoms of menopause?” There are many symptoms associated with menopause. However, not all women experience menopause symptoms in the same manner. In addition, not all women may experience these symptoms. Some may have a fairly easy transition during this phase while others may experience difficult and emotionally draining menopause.
- Period irregularity – this is the first sign of menopause. Change in the cycle length and change in the interval in-between are common menopausal symptoms.
- Hot flashes – this is the sudden feeling of heat which many women experience. Hot flashes usually begin around the face, neck and chest area and move towards the rest of the body. This causes sweating and redness in the face and body.
- Mood swings – the reduction of oestrogen and progesterone hormones will cause mood swings in peri-menopausal women. Menopause is a time of great stress as a woman understands she is changing and is no longer “young”. This causes emotional strain causing easily triggered emotional responses.
- Headaches – Due to the unstable vascular system, menopausal women are more likely to develop migraines frequently.
- Insomnia – another symptom of the many symptoms of menopause is insomnia. The inability to sleep stems from the night sweats experienced.
- Vaginal dryness – The walls of the uterus and vagina become dry due to the lack of oestrogen in the body. The dryness in the vagina makes menopausal women more susceptive to infections and tissue damage.
- Weight gain –weight gain is common among menopausal women. The metabolism slows with age. The changing hormones in the body will change the fat deposit pattern. This will result in fat build up, especially around the abdomen.
- Fatigue – this is due to lower oestrogen production in the body and is temporary.
If experiencing any of these menopausal symptoms prematurely, seeking advice from a health care provider is beneficial.
Treating Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause cannot be prevented. However, the symptoms of menopause can be treated if it is affecting a person’s day to day life. For example, hormone replacement therapy is an excellent treatment method of vaginal dryness, itching, and urinary problems etc that is associated with menopause. Hot flashes can be managed if a person dresses in lose, comfortable clothing. Clothes made in natural fibres such as wool and cotton will provide more ventilation thereby, making hot flashes manageable. Lower doses of anti-depressants are also effective in reducing hot flashes. Increase in the intake of calcium will avoid the risks of osteoporosis which is common in menopausal women. Remaining sexually active, living a healthy lifestyle and eating the proper foods will all help alleviate menopause symptoms to some degree.
Menopause is unavoidable. However, with knowledge of what are the symptoms of menopause, women experiencing them will be able to find relief in the treatments provided. Maintaining a positive outlook of life and embracing each stage of life with enthusiasm will be the best way to avoid depressed emotions over the prospects of experiencing menopausal.