Menopause or ‘change of life’ is a phase in a woman’s life which indicates the end of menstruation or monthly cycle. It is actually derived from a Greek word ‘men’ which means month and ‘pausis’ which means ‘termination’. Menopause is a natural event which usually occurs when the woman reaches her late 40s or early 50s and signifies the closure of her fertile phase.
Menopause marks the end of the major role performed by the ovaries .i.e. the secretion of ova, release of estrogen and progesterone hormones, creation and shedding of the uterine lining or monthly periods. Menopausal transition .i.e. the change from a potentially fertile to non-fertile state usually tends to happen gradually over a period of time. This transition phase, also known as perimenopause, takes about a year to be finally declared as menopause. After one year without any monthly cycle, a woman is said to reach menopause. The phase following menopause is referred to as the postmenopausal stage which remains until the end of your life.
Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is different for each woman and so are its symptoms. This attributes to the hormonal fluctuations and especially the role of estrogen hormone which plays diverse roles in the body. A deficit of estrogen in the body may lead to varied physical and emotional symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of menopause are:
Change in Menses: Irregular periods are the first sign which you might notice if your body is ready for menopause. You might bleed lesser or more than you usually do. The duration of the monthly cycle may become longer or shorter. All these symptoms are considered normal. However, if you have an excessive flow, periods lasting for more than a week, cycles repeating very closely then you should discuss it with a medical practitioner to be sure.
Mood Swings: A number of women feel moody and snappish around the time of menopause owing to a possibility of diverse factors such as a feeling of fatigue, family issues, and prior history of depression.
Bladder and Vaginal Problems: The body becomes more susceptible to vaginal or urinary infections. Some women may suffer from the problems of an urine incontinence or urine leakage. The perennial area may become itchy and dry attributing to the change in hormonal levels making the intercourse painful.
Hot Flushes: This is yet another common symptoms which a woman you might feel near the transition phase. Hot flushes refer to the feeling of flush or heat in which red blotches emerge all over the body. Symptoms could be mild or strong including excess perspiration and cold tremors which may result in sleep disturbances also known as night sweats.
Apart from these, women might experience:
- Diminished or increased sex drive
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Ache in joints and muscles
- Experience memory lapses making it problematic to remember little things
Impact on Heart and Bones During Menopause
Osteoporosis: The estrogen hormone plays an important role in the maintenance of bone health and helps to control bone loss. Deterioration of estrogen in the body during menopause may lead to weak and fragile bones also known as osteoporosis.
Cardiac Disorders: Aging and fluctuating levels of estrogen hormone may elevate the risk of developing heart disease. Other factors such as weight gain, hypertension may also have detrimental effects on the heart.
It is always advisable to discuss with your health practitioner and get the required tests associated with bone density, levels of glucose, LDL and HDL cholesterol, levels of triglycerides done to ensure timely prevention and remedial measures if need be.
Although rare, it is definitely possible for the women to reach it before they touch their mid-40’s. This is known as early menopause or premature ovarian failure. There are chances that a woman still gets her periods and ovaries releasing eggs intermittently even after experiencing premature menopause. Major causes of premature menopause are:
- Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus)
- Oophorectomy (removal of ovaries)
- Certain types of cancer treatments or radiotherapy
- Autoimmune diseases
- Down’s syndrome
- Addison’s disease
It is always useful to stay well-educated and informed regarding what to expect along with the remedial measures to ease the transition phase.
Stay happy and celebrate womanhood!