Just as our bodies take a few years to completely enter puberty, there’s also a transition time to reach the end of your menstrual years. This is why many women are confused about whether or not they have reached menopause. There is no clear indicator marking the onset of menopause. You can only confirm you are in menopause when you look back and analyse the symptoms since your last period, which might have been a few months or even a year ago!
Signs And Symptoms Of Menopause
Indeed, menopause is marked by the time when you stop menstruating altogether. Before you reach that point, you will have several signs and symptoms, such as irregular periods with scanty or excessive bleeding, hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness or itching. Some women experience severe mood swings, edema (or swelling due to fluid retention) and even insomnia.
Menopause is typically self-diagnosed, but your doctor may prescribe treatments for your symptoms, especially the severe ones. Visiting your doctor for periodical checkups when you notice new symptoms is a good practice. This will help you to sail through your transition phase. Make sure you carry a notepad with you to note down important advice that the doctor might give. You may also keep a track of your dates and symptoms in the notepad, helping identify patterns for yourself. It would be useful for you to ask your OB-GYN a few questions.
1. Will I Need Hormone Replacement Therapy?
It is a matter of choice. Hormone replacement therapies help a lot of women, but there are many who prefer to go by natural methods and wait it out. Some turn to alternative therapies and ease their symptoms till they get better.1 Remember, hormone replacement should be considered only when your symptoms are unbearable.
2. What Lifestyle Changes Should I Make?
Maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, check your cholesterol and blood pressure levels regularly. It is beneficial to keep your sugar and stress levels under control too. This is a period of several imbalances in the body, and it helps to lead a healthy lifestyle.
3. Will Menopause Make My Other Conditions Worse?
The biggest health risks post menopause are heart disease and osteoporosis. If you are already at risk for these conditions, menopause can indeed make the problems worse. A good diet, proper exercise and extra nutrients can help. Do ask your doctor for advice specific to your conditions.2
4. Are There Natural Ways To Address Symptoms?
If you are not comfortable taking hormones or medicines, there are a number of alternative therapies like yoga, meditation, ayurvedic practices, nutritional therapies and regular exercises that can help you feel better over time. Let your doctor know what you are looking for and check what alternative therapy may best suit you.3
5. How Does Menopause Affect Sex Life?
When the levels of oestrogen decrease, the vaginal walls can become dry and irritated. This can make sexual intercourse painful. Also, lower levels of oestrogen also result in hot flushes and night sweats, which can make a woman feel less attractive. This is not common to everyone. Doctors can prescribe gels and lubricants to help ease the pain and dryness.
6. How Will I Know That I Won’t Get Pregnant?
Understand that menopause is officially over when you have not had a period for one year. Keep a journal and track how your other symptoms are faring. If the hot flushes, insomnia and sweating have subsided or become better, your hormones are probably balancing out well. Your doctor might be able to tell you better.4 Until that point, however, it is better to use a contraceptive if you wish to avoid pregnancy.
It’s natural, it happens and you will get better. Just stay patient, eat well and make peace with the new changes in your body.
|↑1||Sitruk-Ware, L. R., and Wulf H. Utian. The menopause and hormonal replacement therapy: Facts and controversies. Marcel Dekker Inc, 1991.|
|↑2||Glenville, Marilyn, Natural Solutions to Menopause, Pan Macmillan, 2011.|
|↑3||Menopausal Syndrome. National Health Portal, India.|
|↑4||Weber,Valerie. Menopause FAQs. PMPH-USA, 2007.|