Many women cannot wait to get off the pain, cramps and, most times, the discomfort they experience during menstruation. Yet, when it eventually bids goodbye, many are ill-prepared for the medical and psychological challenges that follow.
Most women have said that instead of relief, they feel less feminine; others even thought they had contacted a disease.
Not to worry, doctors have said menopause, which is the permanent end of menstruation, is a turning point in a woman’s life, not a disease.
The net doctor defines menopause as the day a woman experiences her last menstrual cycle because her ovaries, which produce eggs, have slowed down.
It does not happen suddenly, it is a gradual process, but many women fail to see the warnings, hence they experience complications such as hot flashes and severe issues like heart diseases and osteoporosis says a gynaecologist, Dr. Jeni Worden, “Menopause is a milestone – it’s the day that marks 12 months in a row since a woman’s last period. It most time signifies that the ovaries are slowing down and the woman’s childbearing years are winding down.”
Age is the leading cause of menopause, says Worden.She notes that though few women start menopause as young as 40, and a very small percentage as late as 60, a woman should expect to stop seeing her menstrual flow between ages 45-55 years.
She also notes that there is no proven way to predict the exact age a woman would experience menopause.
Menopause affects women differently, say scientists at the National Institute of Aging.
Because hormonal composition varies in individuals, some women may reach this stage with little or no trouble; while others may experience severe symptoms such as discomfort during sex, hot flashes and sleeping problems, which drastically hamper their lives.
Worden states that for a woman to manage her health when menopause starts, she must be able to recognise premenopausal symptoms.
A major sign that menopause is approaching is a change in menstrual period but this change varies in length from woman to woman.
She adds, “Periods may get shorter or longer, heavier or lighter, with more or less time between periods. Such changes are normal,”
Here are other menopausal symptoms that would let you know that your menstrual cycle is winding down:
According to Medicinet.com, about 80 per cent of women entering menopause experience hot flashes (or hot flushes) , a brief feeling of heat that may make the face and neck flushed, cause temporary red blotches to appear on the chest, back, and arms.
Sweating and chills may follow. Hot flashes vary in intensity and typically last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes.
Women complain that they have less appetite to make love or feel much pain during intercourse after or before menopause. Worden says since less estrogen is produced in a woman after menopause this leads to vaginal dryness, which may make intercourse uncomfortable or painful.
Therapists on WebMd.com have said using a water-soluble lubricant during love making may help.
They warn that libido may also change, for better or worse, but many factors besides menopause — including stress, medications, depression, poor sleep, and relationship problems — affect sex drive. “If symptoms persist, talk to your doctor, a woman should not settle for a so-so sex life because of menopause.”
Also, with menopause comes a greater risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. So it means it is time to step up and get serious about it, if you have not already.
According to a survey on WedMD.com, the number one cause of death in women in the United States is menopause-related heart disease and osteoporosis as the loss of estrogen plays a role for heart disease after menopause.
Physician-author Christiane Northrup says one of the smartest things a woman can do as she transits to menopause and afterward is to get regular physical activity. Instead of looking back mournfully, she should use this state to redefine herself with positive thoughts, love, explore what brings her pleasure, and revive (not retire) her sex life.
That includes aerobic exercise for her heart and weight-bearing exercise for her bones — both of which may help ward off weight gain and provide a mood boost.
Other treatments that experts offer to help women cope better with menopausal symptoms include low-dose birth control pills; antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, or other medications to help with hot flashes; and vaginal estrogen cream.
Your doctor may also have lifestyle tips about adjusting your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management.