Women go through many hormonal changes during their lives, menopause is one of them. Women usually go through menopause during her 40s or 50s. It indicates the end of a woman’s reproductive period. It is a natural part of ageing that all women go through.
A woman is born with a definite number of eggs that is stored in her ovaries. Menopause happens when the ovaries no longer release eggs every month. Menstruation stops with menopause. With menopause the production of estrogen and progestrone decline.
Menopause does not happen overnight. It slowly sets in over a period of, at least, a couple of years. Therefore, menopause includes three stages:
- Perimenopause- The onset of perimenopause is indicated by the ovaries producing lesser estrogen and progesterone. It begins years before the ovaries stop releasing eggs.
- Menopause- It is when the woman has not had her last menstrual cycle in over a year. At this stage the ovaries has stopped releasing eggs and estrogen levels has dipped significantly
- Postmenopause- This is the period after menopause. During this stage, the early symptoms of menopause subside and the health problems due to menopause may become apparent.
Women going through menopause may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods, maybe excessive or scanty
- Hot flashes- is a sudden feeling of warmth or heat in the upper part of the body. It may cause the skin to become red and may also increase heart rate.
- Sudden changes in core body temperatures e.g. Feeling too cold or hot and sweaty in short intervals
- Vaginal dryness caused by decreased estrogen levels. It may also get irritable and maybe prone to infections.
- Changes in weight- either loss or gain
- Hair loss
- Breasts may become painful or tender
- Low sexual drive
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Like all other hormonal changes in the body, menopause is also accompanied by mood swings and irritability
- Bladder control problems
- Fatigue and joint and muscles pain
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Memory loss or lack of concentration
- Growth of unwanted facial hair
After menopause, women are at a higher risk of developing certain diseases or conditions like:
- Osteoporosis- The dip in the levels of estrogen is linked to the decrease in bone density. This increases the risk of developing bone problems such as osteoporosis.
- Breast cancer
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Greater risk of Alzheimer’s
- Urinary incontinence
- Loss of muscular strength
The symptoms usually subside in a couple of years. Generally, women don’t need any treatment to cope with the symptoms of menopause but if the symptoms of menopause significantly affects the woman she should consult her doctor to treat the symptoms.
Exercising during and after menopause is highly recommended as it can improve muscle and bone strength, give you a feeling of well-being and significantly reduce the risk of cancer. It also prevents weight gain and encourages weight loss if required.