Menopause is basically the time after you haven’t had your period for 12 months. It is a normal part of the ageing process, and every woman will go through menopause during their life. It can happen during your 40s or 50s, but the average age is around 51.
During this period, your body will undergo various changes. Think of it like puberty during your teenage years, but at an older age. Besides physical changes, you may also experience changes in your emotions and behaviour. These changes will be described in greater detail below. There are also various treatments available to help make this process more pain-free. Menopause symptoms typically last on average around 4.5 years after the last period, but around 7.4 years in total including perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause where you may still have irregular periods)
What are the Causes of Menopause?
Menopause can happen because of:
- a natural decline in reproductive hormones. As you get older, and approach your late 30s, your body will start to produce less oestrogen and progesterone (two reproductive hormones) which regulate your menstruation (menses), decreasing your fertility. As you progress towards menopause, your periods will likely become more irregular, until eventually, it stops.
- surgery to remove your ovaries. Your ovaries are important as they produce important hormones. When they are removed, for instance because of a medical condition like ovarian cancer, you will immediately have menopause
- chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These cancer therapies can result in menopause.
- a condition known as primary ovarian insufficiency. About 1% of women experience premature menopause (before the age of 40). For these women, hormone therapy may be recommended until their natural age of menopause.
What are the Symptoms of Menopause?
Before menopause, there is a period known as perimenopause (pre-menopause). During this period, you may experience:
- irregular periods
- hot flushes (sudden sweating although the surrounding environment is not hot)
- chills or shivering
- sweating at night
- problems with sleep
- changes in mood / mood swings
- weight gain
- slower metabolism
- thinning hair
- dry skin
- lost of breast fullness
What are the Complications of Menopause?
After menopause occurs, you may realise that you are at greater risk for certain health problems. These health issues include:
- cardiovascular disease
- osteoporosis (causes bones to become more brittle and weak) You should discuss with your doctor is health supplements are beneficial for you.
- not being able to hold your urine (urinary incontinence). You might also realise that you have urinary tract infections (UTIs) more often – You can try to increase your intake of cranberry juice, which some preliminary research has shown to increase your protection against UTIs
- sexual function – Your desire for sexual intercourse may decrease, and you might feel discomfort during sexual intercourse due to vaginal dryness. Lubricants may be able to help soothe any discomfort.
- weight gain – you may notice that you have to eat less and exercise more in order to maintain your weight as compared to when you were younger.
How is Menopause Diagnosed?
Tests aren’t usually needed to diagnose menopause, as doctors are likely able to tell that you are/have been experiencing signs of perimenopause from your symptoms. However, if necessary, your doctor may recommend blood tests to check for levels of certain reproductive hormones, like follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen, which decrease with menopause
- Your doctor might want to check for thyroid stimulating hormone levels, as an underactive thyroid can cause symptoms that look similar to menopause.
What is the Treatment like for Menopause?
Menopause does not need any medical treatment, as it is a normal part of the ageing process. However, if you are experiencing severe discomfort during this process, you should have a chat with your doctor to find out how you can manage these symptoms better. To reduce these side effects of menopause, your doctor may recommend:
- hormone therapy (your doctor might ask you to try oestrogen therapy, which helps to reduce hot flushes. It can also help with preventing bone loss due to osteoporosis. However, there are some side effects of hormone therapy – For instance, there may be a higher risk of cancer. You should talk to your doctor to weigh the pros and cons.
- vaginal oestrogen. Vaginal dryness can be dealt with by applying oestrogen directly to the tissue in the vagina through a cream, tablet or ring. It can help to reduce the discomfort during sexual intercourse.
- Low doses may be administered to help with hot flushes or any severe problems with your mood.
- supplements and medication to help protect against bone loss.
Menopause is a natural process that happens to all women as they age. It is important to remember that there is no need for medical treatment unless you are experiencing severe discomfort. If this is the case, be sure to speak with your doctor about ways to manage these symptoms better.
Additionally, there are some things you can do at home to help reduce the side effects of menopause, like exercising and eating a balanced diet. Be sure to share this information with your loved ones so they can be informed and supportive during this time!