Menopause – really did we say menopause?
It’s one of the topics that most people tend to avoid or when the subject is mentioned it’s usually with a negative connotation as in “Hot Flashes” or “The Change of Life”, “Night Sweats” or the mood swings similar to those women experienced during menstruation.
The fact that it is a natural progression of a woman’s life seems to beg the question then, WHY don’t we understand and talk about this subject as easily as we do so many of life’s other stages?
The fact that there is also male menopause may be an even greater shock to many of you who may be unaware that this condition also exists in the 50 plus year old male population.
Menopause is a natural phase that women experience as they age usually appearing in the late 40’s to mid 50’s age. It includes a variety of symptoms and conditions which women experience just before they stop menstruating; mainly signaling the end of her reproductive years putting an end to her ability to have children under the “normal” circumstances.
Menopause occurs in women because they are born with a limited number of eggs in the ovaries, while the ovaries themselves also produce hormones, namely, estrogen and progesterone, essential to regulate menstruation and ovulation cycle each month. As the eggs are used up (either for menstruation or ovulation), our ovaries no longer releases eggs, thus eventually putting a stop to the menstruation cycle too. And of course, any biological process involving estrogen and progesterone will also be affected as well.
This significant phase happens to all women as they near the age of fifty; however there are also some cases where you can experience it much earlier, a condition known as premature menopause. This condition can happen due to autoimmune diseases, genetics or other unknown reasons which might coax the ovaries to stop releasing the eggs. But somehow this condition is not always permanent. But unlike induced menopause, where medical procedures such as surgery or other kinds of treatments like chemotherapy have affected the ovaries, normal menopause is always permanent and yes, it can be devastating.
As opposed to premature ones, the natural menopause happens without any induced intervention at all. The overall process happens in three main stages: peri-menopause usually happens several years before the true menopause, where the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen before the menopause phase until it stops completely. The years after the menopause phase are together called post-menopause, when menopausal symptoms tend to ease while health risks associated with estrogen loss increases.
Most women tend to experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes accompanied with sweating. Other common symptoms can include mood swings, headaches, low libido, and bladder problems. These symptoms can be mild to some while severe to others.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is generally the standard treatment to reduce menopausal symptoms by using synthetic estrogen and progestin. However, this treatment carries some risks such as breast cancer and heart disease. The lowest effective dose of HRT should be taken with regular follow-ups to decide whether you still need HRT. For most women who use HRT in the short-term for the treatment of their menopausal symptoms, the benefits of treatment may outweigh the risks.
Alternative treatments are considered to be a wholesome approach to helping ease some of the symptoms of the menopause transition. Eating foods that are high in phyto-estrogens, a compound that acts as the natural hormone estrogen, found in soybeans, legumes, flaxseed, and whole grains. Vitamin E and black cohosh are also useful in providing relief from hot flushes.
The natural and inevitable process of Menopause for women has to be an accepted fact of life. Though it often may be difficult to deal with, every woman must prepare by educating herself and not being fearful of discussing the subject with friends and relatives. Being a complete woman, free of insecurities will allow more dialogue and sharing of important information among females than before.
By Liya Das