“Going through The Change”, as an older generation referred to it, the onset of menopause can be daunting. There’s the realization that there will be no more potential for children. This can be sad for women even if they don’t desire more children. No one likes to have their options removed. Then there are the physical manifestations which can strike at any time. It doesn’t matter that you’re in the middle of grocery shopping or in the middle of a business meeting. Your face flushes, your body feels like fire and you drip. Or you’re having a perfectly fine day and it turns to misery due to the emotional roller coaster you find yourself on. The good news? It’s natural, expected, you’re not alone and, with knowledge, it all can be managed to an extent that will help lessen the symptoms and cope with this biological life event.
Menopause is basically the cessation of a woman’s monthly periods. The first stage of this natural transition is referred to as perimenopause. Triggering the onset of perimenopause is a decrease in reproductive hormones. This can happen to women as early as their 30’s but usually in their 40’s. A woman’s levels of estrogen, progesterone and other hormones drop, which is the primary cause for subsequent symptoms. Periods can become erratic and change in quantity and duration. Once a women has not had a period for a year, she is considered to be menopausal. This signals the end of fertility with no production of eggs. Subsequently, a woman is considered postmenopausal. Some menopausal symptoms can continue for a few years after a woman is in post menopause including hot flashes and night sweats.
Menopause comes with a slew of symptoms. Some women will suffer through many of them. Others are seemingly selective with symptoms, with some women actually experience very few symptoms. An absolute is that monthly periods will change in scope, duration and regularity. Physically a woman may experience hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, headaches, an increase in urination, dry skin, hair loss, weight gain, and vaginal dryness.
Emotional symptoms of depression, anxiety, and lack of sex drive may arise. Mood swings are common, as is fatigue manifested by deceased energy and weakness. Concentration may be affected, or a woman might have some issues with memory. Stress due to lack of sleep, or disrupted sleep, also has an impact on memory.
Again, the decrease in hormone levels is the cause for the majority of menopausal symptoms, both physical and emotional.
The most common menopause treatments are hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and estrogen hormone therapy. In HRT, the missing hormones are prescribed in pill form by a physician to help combat symptoms. Estrogen hormone therapy is available for use with pills, creams and patches. Many woman find sought-after relief through hormone therapy while others do not wish to take additional hormones.
In that case there are other useful activities for helping a woman alleviate her symptoms. These include a program of stress management using relaxation, deep breathing and exercise along with massage. Following a well-balanced diet and avoiding processed foods will help control any weight gain and balance hormones. Vaginal creams can be used to offset dryness and afford comfort. To provide some relief from night sweats, use a fan by the bed or keep air conditioning running through the night. Use freezer packs to keep your pillow cool. These can also be placed by your feet or head to reduce body heat. Use natural, wicking, material for sheets. Using herbal remedies or essential oils may also provide some relief. And, unlike an older generation who underwent this change in their life silently, venting with girlfriends and explaining what is happening to family, goes a long way to lesson the emotional symptoms that arise.