Menopause can cause changes in our bodies but it doesn't make us weaker. It relates to the period in which the hormonal production begins to change and is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 months.
Your period stops - but you don't
Although it is a natural part of a menstruating human's life, the start of this chapter can come at different ages for different people. The average age is around 51 but can range from 45 to 55 years.
Medical procedures such as ovariectomy, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may advance the onset of menopause and it has been found out that those who smoke have the menopause 1-2 years earlier than those who don’t.
On a hormonal and physical level there is a decrease in estrogen production, a reduction in the number of follicles and ovulation exhaustion.
On an experiential, subjective and spiritual level? That bit is down to you!
What does menopause feel like?
Menopausal symptoms are related to a lowered production of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Rebalancing of the hormone production depends on the individual. The symptoms may begin before the end of menstruation but are generally most difficult within a year of menopause. Some people experience these symptoms for a long time, while the more fortunate ones don’t experience them at all!
The most common symptoms are severe sweating episodes and hot flashes (keep in mind that sweating can occur at any time of the day and comes in spurts). Hot flashes start with a strong internal feeling of warmth, often accompanied by the feeling of palpitations and facial flushing.
Ever heard of cold sweats? Evaporation of the heat can cause a cold sensation making the skin feel sweaty. Again, completely normal.
Hot flashes can happen to 70-80% of people with a uterus, however, only 20% of people experience strong ones. Most frequently the sweating will last 2-5 years, but 10% of the symptoms occur 10 to 20 years after the last period. The mechanisms of hot flashes are a mystery.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, that’s completely normal. This often leads to daytime fatigue and irritability. Depression, mood swings and lack of initiative are often connected to menopause but the relation of symptoms to lack of estrogen is unclear.
Estrogen deficiency results in thinning of the vaginal mucosa causing dryness and sometimes sting and pain during sexual intercourse. Estrogen deficiency also affects many other tissues and organs.
Recognition of menopause
Confirmation of menopause usually comes with clear menopausal symptoms, fatigue or disappearance of menstruation in someone over 45.
Hot flashes are usually associated with cessation of menstruation or at least with the irregularity of bleeding. In general, it is easy to tell if the sweating is associated with menopause.
Laboratory tests are not usually required but if menstruation ceases at a younger age then further investigations are necessary. The most important laboratory investigation to determine menopause is the assay of FSH, follicle stimulating hormone pituitary (pituitary gland). If the function of the ovaries is fading, the FSH levels rise. Value of more than 40 IU/l usually means menopause.
Symptoms such as facial flushing or sweating are common but could also be a result of other things so, if in doubt, check with your doctor.
When to go to the doctor
If you’re feel something’s not quite right, visit your doctor. But if you’re getting the normal symptoms, take a deep breath, and embrace it!
For those who have a gynecological disease such as extra effluents then medical examinations will be required during the menopausal phase.
Menopausal symptoms can only be treated effectively with estrogen but there are lots of things you can do in your everyday life to reduce symptoms.
Things like the intake of soya and phytoestrogens have been researched a lot but their effectiveness has yet to be backed scientifically. The same goes for herbal remedies and other alternative treatments but there are options out there if you want to check them out (just chat with your doctor about them first).
A healthy diet and regular exercise should not be forgotten! Going outside is crucial for your wellbeing and activities such as yoga can help you get in touch with your body and feel more liberated.
The symptoms are less when the body and mind are in sync. An active lifestyle, positive attitude, and a good support system will help you feel comfortable and accept menopause as a natural phase in a menstruating human's life!