All women experience menopause. As one’s body ages, it’s normal to expect gradual physical changes. In the recent years, there has been a boost in the number of women going through menopausal transition. The number of women going through menopause is directly proportional to the number of women over the age of 45. While it is not a new experience in the life of women, menopause is undoubtedly one of the most advertised and talked about medical conditions.


Menopause: Overview & Facts

Menopause (climacteric) is a process of natural change that begins before or after a woman ceases to menstruate. Menopause is a biological stage in a woman’s life. When they reach this phase of their life, women stop ovulating and estrogen levels drop significantly. The result is that they are no longer fertile, meaning that women cannot bear children.

The majority of medical practitioners use the word menopause to make reference to the period of time when a woman’s hormone levels suffer changes and the reproductive time ends. Menopause is similar to puberty, which means that it is a normal condition. Only women who have had their ovaries surgically removed do not go through menopause.

Generally speaking, when a woman stops getting her period, she experiences menopause. Menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.  Attention needs to be paid to the fact that this range varies considerably. To be more precise, women can stop menstruating at the age of 30 or 40. It mostly depends on factors like genetics. Researchers in medical science associate the mother’s menopausal age with the daughter’s age at menopause.

It is possible to predict when a woman hits menopause with a simple blood test. The blood test is performed on younger women and it is meant to determine ovarian reserve, that is, the AMH concentration.

Menopause does not happen overnight. The process of natural change happens in stages. The period immediately before the climacteric stage is called perimenopause. It is difficult for a woman to know if she has entered the perimenopause stage. The reason for this is that the hormonal fluctuations begin while the menstrual periods are still regular.

Early menopause typically occurs before the age of 40. It is commonly referred to as premature menopause. Postmenopause is the period of time when a woman has not had vaginal bleeding for a year.


Symptoms & Diagnosis of Menopause

Symptoms of Menopause

Menopause symptoms vary greatly from one woman to the other, so they are a little bit subjective. Nonetheless, there are classic symptoms of the disorder, like:

  • Irregular bleeding
  • Hot flashes
  • Night Sweats
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Feelings of coldness, normally accompanied by shivering
  • Thinning hair

These symptoms characteristic to the physical transition are caused by changes in estrogen and progesterone. Each stage of menopause has its own set of symptoms, as follows:

  • Perimenopause: premenstrual syndrome, changes in menstrual cycle, unexpected vaginal bleeding, sleep problems, vaginal disturbances
  • Early menopause: vaginal dryness, low libido, irritable bladder, emotional effects
  • Postmenopause: genital bleeding, painful sexual intercourse, vaginal atrophy, memory lapses, difficulty in focusing, hair loss

According to recent findings, women are more likely to experience hot flashes than any other symptom. It is important to note that women can experience many symptoms during menopause stages. These clinical manifestations last for a short period of time and they tend to disappear with time. Those who display symptoms typically associated with this medical condition need to refer to a GP. The menopause symptoms can become problematic.

Diagnosis of Menopause

It is not necessary to perform tests in order to diagnose menopause. The medical practitioner can know for certain that the woman is experiencing menstrual transition by analyzing the symptoms. More often than not, symptoms are enough to make a correct diagnosis. In certain situations, though, blood tests are carried out to check the FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and E2 (estradiol) levels. The hormone levels increase during the period before menopause and are high in the postmenopause stage.


Menopause Symptoms


What Causes Menopause?

Menopause is a normal part of the aging process. However, there are certain events that can determine a woman to enter menopause earlier than the age of 40. These are the causes of menopause:

1. Smoking and malnutrition

Women who smoke heavily and are underweight are at a serious risk of developing early menopause. Medical professionals have discovered that there is a close connection between cigarettes, malnutrition and menopause. They also have a higher risk of infertility. These women might want to discuss the implications with their doctors.

2. Premature ovarian failure

Premature ovarian failure refers to the loss of normal ovarian function. What happens is that the ovaries do not produce enough hormones. Premature ovarian failure is frequently called premature menopause, despite the fact that they are not the same thing. Cessation of the ovarian function can be caused by autoimmune diseases as well as genetic conditions. The matter of the fact is that women with premature ovarian failure stop having menstrual periods and it is impossible for them to get pregnant.

3. Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involved taking out the uterus. It does not necessarily cause menopausal transition. Nonetheless, if the ovaries are surgically removed as well, the person will experience menopause and all the typical manifestations. The menstrual periods cease right away and the hormonal changes occur all of a sudden.

4. Chemotherapy

During cancer treatment, some patients experience irregular periods and even amenorrhea. More specifically, they no longer have vaginal bleeding. The medications that are used in chemotherapy have a negative impact on the ovaries, resulting in menopausal syndrome.

5. Chromosome defects

Chromosome defects or abnormalities are determined by the loss or fain of chromosomes. Some of these defects can lead to the climacteric. Women who have Turner syndrome or TS have abnormally working ovaries. The vast majority of women with Turner syndrome undergo growth hormone therapy in order to develop normally. It should not come as a surprise that they experience menopause.


Menopause Treatment & Care

Menopause Treatment

Treatment for menopause includes specific therapies. The choice of the treatment depends on several factors, like age, current manifestations, preference, and resistance to certain medications. Some women want treatment to manage their symptoms of menopause, while others do not, preferring to endure everything.

Birth control pills are most commonly prescribed to individual women who are seriously affected by menopausal symptoms. The estrogen in the birth control pills replaces the decline in the body’s levels.  It is important to note that birth control pills contain many hormones besides estrogen. These synthetic hormones provide just the amount of hormones necessary for the ovaries to function normally.

One of the most controversial forms of treatment is hormone replacement therapy. Hormonal therapy implies the use of hormones like estrogen and progesterone. They come in the form of tablets, creams, skin patches, and gels. The matter of that fact is that the treatment carries a high degree of risk, as do all hormonal therapies for that matter. Hormone therapy could possibly lead to breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Even if the person does not experience these complications, they might have headaches and vaginal bleeding.

Anti-depressants are also used in the treatment of menopause. What these drugs do is help with the hot flashes, night sweats and ultimately with depression. Anti-depressants are effective alternatives to estrogen. As a rule, they are administered to women who refuse to take estrogen. Attention needs to be paid to the fact that anti-depressants are not enough when it comes to caring for menopause. What offers the best therapeutic potential is anti-depressants and hormonal therapy.

Naturally, patients can resort to alternative medicine. Women who do not experience a normal menopause can try treatments like herbal medicines, soya products, and acupuncture. It is important to highlight the fact that there is no evidence that these alternative treatments work. This does not mean that women are not likely to experience any benefits, but that they might not enjoy constant benefits.

Menopause Care

Women can take measures in order to take care of themselves. Self-care is very important when it comes to menopause. Menopause is a personal experience and, therefore, individual women need to look after themselves before, during and after the menopausal transition. This is how women can take care of themselves:

  • Eat a healthy diet: During the climacteric, it is essential to consume foods that are rich in calcium and iron. Equally important is to eat foods that contain lots of protein, vitamin C, and vitamin B. The diet itself makes the transition period a lot easier since the body has all the necessary nutrients.
  • Workout: getting physical exercise is important during menopause. Due to the hormonal changes, loss of muscle mass, and stress, women gain weight. Exercising helps lose weight and improves the metabolism.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption: Having a drink or two is actually allowed. Yet, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to depression and heart-related diseases.
  • Take care of the bones: Many people are completely oblivious to the fact that menopause has a negative impact on bone health. Where there is not enough estrogen production, there is not enough calcium in the bones. Regardless of the age, women are a risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis. Ben fractures are also possible. The point is that women should be eating lots of dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and supplement with vitamin D.


Menopause Complications

When it comes to menopause, there are always challenges ahead of the road. The menopausal challenges occur at a certain age and can lead to serious complications. Between the ages of 45 and 55, the body does not produce as much estrogen and progesterone as it should, the results being that the woman ceases to have a menstrual cycle and develops complications, like:

  • Heart disease: Heart disease has long been linked to the climacteric. The reason why heart disease increases following menopause is that the low estrogen levels cause irregular heartbeats. Hormones offer protection against heart attack, so it is not difficult to imagine what happens when the patient refuses to get treatment.
  • Infertility: if the body’s reproductive system is not functioning properly, then it becomes difficult for a woman to become pregnant. Although the chances of conceiving are decrease significantly, it should not be understood that women cannot get pregnant at all. It is worth exploring options like donor eggs and in vitro fertilization.
  • Death: Women who experience premature menopause are at risk of losing their lives, according to medical experts. Reaching this biological stage does not kill them per se, but the health problems that arise. Examples include heart disease and stroke. They are more likely to develop such complications than women who enter menopause normally.


The Perception of Menopause

The way that menopause is perceived varies from culture to culture. For example, among Turkish women, the climacteric is viewed as a pathological period. In other words, it is considered abnormal. In the US, on the other hand, women have a more positive attitude towards this physical transition. This can be explained by the fact that they have access to information sources and, therefore, have a better understanding of the matter.

The cultural context is indeed important, but so is the age. Your women, for their part, have trouble accepting menopause. Just like Turkish women, they see menopause as being something of a disease. Those who go through the physical transition carry a social stigma. They frequently experience distress and they do not share their experiences with others out of fear that they will be judged. It is believed that the stigma begins early in life and it is enhanced by family and society.

What women need to do is accept the fact that menopause is a normal condition. While it is certainly not a reason to celebrate, it is not something to be ashamed of. Women should take control of their bodies and not think too much about the displeasures of aging. When they are able to do this, they will be able to manage their physical and emotional pain.

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018

Chris Riley

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