Today, let’s talk about a process so natural that almost every woman goes through – Menopause. As a woman, the fear of menopause has been instilled in us since late teens and yet, no one tells us how to prepare ourselves with the right tools to deal with this phase of life with ease. Life doesn’t stop at menopause. So why should you? Yes, let’s jump right at it and understand what happens during a menopause, the care you need to take and how best you can deal with it.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural biological process. In simple terms, menopause is the end of your menstruation cycle for good. That is, lack of menstruation for one full year. It’s diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age of Menopause in Indian Women is mostly 46.2 compared to their Western Counterparts. During this phase, the ovaries stop producing eggs, body produces less estrogens and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether.
Although, it’s better to know that pelvic or ovarian damage may cause sudden menopause earlier in life. Genetics or underlying conditions may also lead to early onset of menopause.
Stages of Menopause
There are three stages of a menopause –
Perimenopause is the 3 to 4-year transition phase, in which a woman’s body gradually begins making the natural shift from regular cycles of ovulation and menstruation toward permanent infertility, or menopause.
Women start perimenopause at different ages. You may notice signs in your 40s, or even as early as your 30s. Periods may become irregular — longer, shorter, heavier or lighter, sometimes more and sometimes less than 28 days apart. You may also experience menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes, sleep problems and vaginal dryness.
Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’ve officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over.
The years following menopause are called post-menopause. During this time, many of the symptoms of menopause ease for most women; you may regain your energy and feel emotionally normal once again. But, as a result of a lower level of estrogens, postmenopausal women have an increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and changes in the vagina and bladder.
And it is the postmenopausal phase where the need to take extra care and practice caution comes into picture. Whatever the condition maybe, it can be managed with good nutrition, habits and lifestyle (discussed further below)
Symptoms of Menopause
When it starts naturally, the first sign may be an irregular menstrual cycle. Once it gets off-schedule, it should stop completely within about 4 years. You might also notice these symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Lower sex drive
- Hot flashes
- Racing heart
- Vaginal dryness and soreness
- Painful sex
- Trouble sleeping
- Thinning of hair / Dry Skin
- Weight gain and Slowed metabolism
Managing the Symptoms
Based on the severity of the symptoms, medical history and overall health, managing your symptoms can include hormone therapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes. The best guide would be your doctor, who can assess what stage you are at in the menopause transition and help you understand the benefits and risks of different treatments as they relate to you in particular.
However, there’s one respite in all the chaotic transition – you can take many steps to reduce your menopausal symptoms without taking hormones. And these are pretty simple:
- Control your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease.
- Do NOT smoke and avoid second smoking too. Cigarette use can cause early menopause.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
- Get adequate calcium and vitamin D in food or supplements
- Strengthen your pelvis by practicing Kegel exercises.
- Practice slow, deep breathing whenever a hot flash starts to come on (try taking six breaths per minute)
- Remain sexually active
- Build a skin care and hair care routine (moisturize, oil, stay hydrated)
- Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation
- Use water-based lubricants during sexual intercourse
- Consult your doctor for medications to help with hot flashes and mood swings
- Have positive familial environment and social circle, to build the emotional support that’s much needed
- Communicate your needs. Talk to a therapist, if needed, about any feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness, isolation, insomnia, etc. Remember, you are not alone in this. Every woman goes through this and it is better to have support system in place.
- Right nutrition and healthy food habits help with weight management and mood swings
- Get plenty of exercise to manage your weight. Post menopause, muscles become weaker and fade. A recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that post-menopausal women can reduce their body fat, increase muscle mass, build up their bones, and improve their balance by lifting moderately heavy weights on a regular basis.
I hope, with this information, you take the right call for your body. All women go through it and you don’t have to suffer alone in silence. Talking about it helps, seeking support helps, breaking the taboo helps. The earlier you start talking, the better prepared you and your family are, to provide the required post-menopausal care.
If there are any doubts, drop a comment below and I will be happy to support.