Menopause marks the end of the menstrual cycle and gradual reduction in the ability of women to conceive. It is not an overnight change but happens gradually as the levels of female hormones viz. estrogen and progesterone drop naturally. This occurs because ovaries stop synthesizing these two hormones. You can say you have achieved menopause only after 12 consecutive months have passed without having your menstrual period. Menopause affects the functioning of the female reproductive tract and other systems as well. There is a direct relation between menopause age and symptoms experienced during menopause.
When Does Menopause Usually Occur?
Every woman has a unique menstrual cycle depending on the functioning of her reproductive tract. There may also be a variation in the menstrual pattern of the same woman for every different month. Since the onset and symptoms of menopause are dependent on the menstrual cycle and female reproductive functions, the timing of menopause varies for every woman. However, most women begin experiencing menopausal changes in their late forties or early fifties.
Some women reach menopause by the time they turn 45. Such cases are medically termed as early menopause. A variation of early menopause is known as premature menopause; during which women reach menopause even before or just after turning 40.
Both these conditions are likely to affect the fertility of women.
Diagnosis Of Menopause
Menopause involves gradual changes which affect the anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive tract. Due to hormonal and structural changes in the female organs, certain symptoms related to these changes may develop. Some symptoms of menopause which will help to assess the onset and progress of menopause are described below:
1. Hot Flashes
The occurrence of hot flashes is possibly the most commonly experienced symptom of menopause. Women may experience a sudden surge of heat in their body usually accompanied by profuse sweating and reddening of facial skin.
2. Menstrual Irregularities
Monthly menses don’t simply stop to indicate the onset of menopause. Women often experience irregularity in the frequency, duration and symptoms associated with menses. Pain and bleeding experienced during menses may range from minor to very severe. Symptoms of PMS like acne, changes in hunger pattern, bloating may have a different pattern than usual.
3. Deterioration Of Sexual Health
As the synthesis of estrogen and progesterone reduces, women tend to experience loss of sexual desire. Other associated symptoms include lack of sexual satisfaction and painful intercourse. There is a concurrent reduction in fertility, but chances of pregnancy may still exist.
4. Mental Symptoms
It is common to experience irritation and anger at the slightest of things as part of PMS. However, there may be an increase in the level of mental irritability during the perimenopausal age. Women may experience raging anger, uncontrolled desire to laugh or cry, unexplained forgetfulness among other symptoms of mental disturbance.
5. Weight Changes
Estrogen has a protective effect over fat metabolism and regulates weight changes during the fertile years in a woman’s life. As estrogen levels dip during menopause, women may experience weight gain without any drastic changes in dietary habits. The difficulty is often encountered while shedding weight despite a healthy lifestyle.
6. Digestive Trouble
Digestive functions are often affected during the transition to menopause. Women may experience recurring constipation, bloating, changes in bowel habits, changes in appetite among other things. Disturbed digestion also leads to weight changes.
7. Sleep Disturbances
Due to several health issues occurring at a time, women may tend to get restless and lose their sleep as a result. Sleep disturbances may also be experienced due to disturbed psychological wellness. It is important to catch up on lost sleep as this allows all systems in the body to rejuvenate and reboot.
There are several other perimenopause symptoms that women are likely to experience depending on their overall health, menstrual cycle, hormonal levels and more.
A visit to the gynaecologist could be considered if any of the above-mentioned symptoms begin to get bothersome with the passage of time. A medical examination may reveal additional details which will allow the gynaecologist to formulate a plan for menopause treatment. A blood test may reveal a reduction in levels of estrogen and progesterone. Levels of thyroid hormones, blood sugar, blood cholesterol may also be elevated or reduced. These factors help to diagnose the beginning of menopause.
Stages Of Menopause
Understanding menopause requires knowledge of not only the signs of menopause but also its stages, treatment options, duration of menopause among other things. Menopause is a transitional phase of life and lasts for a few months to years. It is divided into three stages viz. Perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.
Perimenopause occurs sometime during the late forties for most women. It often makes its presence known with irregularity in monthly menses, which is one of the first signs of menopause. Symptoms like loss of sexual desire, unexplained weight changes could be observed as well.
The only assured indication that women have attained menopause is the complete absence of menstrual bleeding for 12 months consecutively. End of menses does not mark the end of the menopausal phase. Symptoms experienced during menopause will most likely be experienced for a few more months to years, albeit in lesser intensity.
Postmenopause is a stage which begins after menopause has been attained. Symptoms present during menopause will slowly subside and eventually disappear in a few months or years. Postmenopausal women do not possess the ability to conceive.
All these stages are experienced between the late forties to early fifties by most women. However, there are exceptions to every rule and a variation from normal is observed often.
Duration Of Menopausal Symptoms
Attaining menopause is a long process and ends only when menstrual bleeding stops occurring every month. Similar to the uncertainty of the age at which the onset of menopause will begin, there is uncertainty associated with duration of perimenopause symptoms.
Symptoms of perimenopause are mostly experienced from the late forties and may continue for 4-5 years before menopause is attained. These symptoms may also be experienced for the next 4-5 years after menopause. This is the case in most of the women, but there are always exceptions to every rule. Women may experience early or late menopause too when the above mentioned time duration does not apply.
Natural Treatment For Menopausal Symptoms
Undergoing menopause is an inevitable stage in every woman’s life, but it does not have to be an uncomfortable transition. While many women resort to the mainstream medicinal treatment, there are several natural ways that help to obtain relief from symptoms of perimenopause. Here are 5 easy and natural ways to make the journey of menopause relatively less difficult:
1. Dietary Changes
Most people assume that eating less is the key to a healthy lifestyle. However, it is not the quantity but the quality of food you eat that matters. It is important to watch what you put on your plate. Menopausal women should pay special attention to their diet as they are likely to face issues like bloating, constipation, unexplained weight gain. Consuming vegetables, fruits, food rich in fibres and vitamins is advisable. Avoiding junk food, food loaded with empty calories, food rich in saturated fats is always a healthier option.
Yoga is one of the most popular forms of a full-body workout. Yoga asanas are beneficial for physical as well as mental health. Women who are experiencing menopausal changes often require an outlet to release their mental stress. Yoga provides a good opportunity to do so. There are specific yoga postures which help to overcome physical symptoms like bloating and hot flashes experienced during menopause.
3. Consuming Detox Water
Detox water is a type of cold or warm drinks prepared by allowing flavours and extracts of fruits, vegetables or herbs to infuse into the water. Ingredients like cucumber, oranges, lemons, watermelon, mint leaves, cilantro are commonly used to prepare detox water. Detox water helps to combat symptoms of unhealthy weight gain, bloating, oily skin and more experienced during menopause. Starting your day with a glass of freshly brewed detox water is a great idea!
Meditation offers an answer to almost all health issues experienced during menopause and even post-menopause. Anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, confusion are often encountered by women who are in their perimenopausal or menopausal stages of life. Meditation has a calming effect on the mind and helps to find mental peace.
5. Therapeutic Massage
Who can say no to a relaxing body massage?! Body massages help to heal sore muscles, painful joints and help to improve blood circulation. A full body massage done using natural oils will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Signs of menopause such as skin dryness, digestive trouble, abnormal fat deposits can be dealt with by taking regular massage therapy. It is always safe to get a massage done from certified therapists only as they are trained not only to identify where the problem lies but also to avoid any injury during a massage.
There are several other natural ways which alleviate the discomfort associated with perimenopause and menopause. Menopause is not a sickness, but a phase in life. It helps to not associate any taboo or stigma with symptoms of menopause.
Things To Remember When Dealing With Menopause
Menopause is a difficult journey, but it certainly isn’t an impossible one. Finding ways to ease the discomfort experienced frequently during menopause is quite helpful. Here are a few important things that will make dealing with menopause a tad bit easy.
- Remember that menopause is neither a disease nor a permanent phase. Its effects are completely dependent on how it is dealt with
- Worrying unnecessarily will only add to the mental stress already experienced during menopause
- Paying due attention to physical fitness helps to keep symptoms of menopause at bay
- Pursuing a long-cherished hobby or learning a new activity goes a long way in keeping the mind healthy and rejuvenated
- Postponing visits to the doctor will do the health no good, especially when the mind and body are already burdened with menopausal symptoms
- It is perfectly ok to seek professional help to relieve oneself of psychological or psychiatric disturbances that may be experienced during menopause
Taking good care of oneself during menopause is rewarding in many ways. It helps women to prioritize their own self and makes them aware of their health and needs. Your post-menopausal phase is highly dependent on how you have dealt with your menopause. Ladies, make your health your top priority during menopause so as to emerge healthier and full of vigour on the other side.