The word menopause carries with it some stigma and fear even in modern society. There is so much misinformation about a normal part of women’s ageing that is neither a disease nor a disorder.
For women, experiencing menopause often comes at a time in their lives when responsibilities are plenty and it can be difficult to manage it on your own. Many women, based on this fear, refuse to read up on the stages of menopause, causing even more distress when it hits.
This article aims to shine a bright light on what exactly menopause is, and how you can manage this period of change in your life with the right tips and support from your healthcare providers and loved ones.
What exactly is menopause?
From the ages of 45 onward, biological women often experience physical symptoms such as hot flashes and changes in the duration and cycles of their monthly period. This transitional period leading up to the last period of their lives is often called perimenopause.
Menopause then occurs 12 calendar months after a woman’s final period of her life. The lead-up to menopause can range among women depending on various lifestyle factors such as pre-existing health conditions, age, and race, among many others. For some women, this transitional period could take seven years, but for others, up to 14 years.
Physical changes commonly associated with ageing such as changes in body composition, and some deterioration of heart and bone health are experienced by women during this period where the body undergoes variation in levels of hormones.
Signs and symptoms of menopause
Midlife crises are perhaps not the only reason to blame for disturbed sleep as women move well into their forties. One major reason could be the transitional period leading up to menopause. Changes in hormone levels can cause sleep problems for many women, leading to a decrease in overall wellbeing.
It can be helpful to speak to your healthcare provider about how you can better manage your insomnia or hypersomnia during this period. After all, getting a good night’s rest is vital to our functioning as human beings, with seven hours of uninterrupted rest being the gold standard of sleep hygiene.
- Changes in period
Like a canary in the coal mine, changes in the bodily period are something that you will notice first as the transitionary perimenopause period kicks in. Periods can either be shorter or longer and you may bleed more or less than normal as well.
While these changes are part and parcel of approaching menopause, you should be careful to note any unusual patterns such as periods that are too near each other and periods that resume after a long duration of no bleeding. If you happen to experience any of these scenarios, do schedule a visit with your doctor who will be able to best advise a course of action.
- Bladder control
Known in some circles as incontinence, a loss of bladder control is another symptom of approaching menopause that can be accompanied by infections if not properly cared for.
It is normal to have to make frequent trips to the restroom to urinate, or for urine to even leak out in certain strenuous situations such as while exercising. Do not be alarmed at these situations, and always remember that this is a normal process of ageing for women.
- Hot flashes
Hot flashes are often identified by experiencing a sudden increase in temperature in your body, with the upper body usually being hit the hardest. There may also be flushing of the face and neck, along with red blotches appearing on parts of your upper body such as the chest and arms.
While this may sound worrisome, hot flashes usually only last for as little as a minute or as much as ten minutes. They may appear either multiple times a day or only once a week. These factors are influenced by your genetics and lifestyle factors.
The sweating and shivering that occur are also a normal process and byproduct of hot flashes occurring in your body and can be better managed with changes to your lifestyle and daily routine.
It is normal for hot flashes to continue to occur well past the perimenopause period, however, it is best to seek the advice of your healthcare provider should these hot flash episodes cause significant damage to your wellbeing.
- Variation in mood levels
“Mood swings,” as they are called, are also commonly associated with menopause. These changes in mood levels come about at a time in women’s lives when menopause becomes an inevitable mainstay.
However, the medical causes of mood variations remain unclear as of yet. We could speculate that mood variations during this period of life come about due to heightened stress levels, hormonal variations, as well as a history of mental illness.
Unlike menopause, these variations in mood levels do not have to be permanent. The field of mental health has seen great insights into mood management in this stressed-out modern age, and you do not have to feel alone in your struggles. Reaching out to a trusted loved one or a mental health professional could be just the right step in ensuring that you have a stress-free life post-menopause.
Do you have menopause?
If you are beginning to experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this article or more, it will be best to consult with a women’s health doctor who can conduct the relevant tests to ensure that your body is responding and coping well to the rapid hormonal changes in this period of change in your life.
Your doctor may conduct blood tests along with an examination of past health issues to determine if it is only menopause that you are experiencing or if there might be other health issues causing the changes in your body.
If you are sexually active and do not wish to get pregnant, you can consider remaining on your birth control pills for at least one full year after your last period as menopause does not occur until then.
For women who have undergone surgeries to remove the ovaries or a hysterectomy, you may also experience the onset of menopause post-surgery as these organs are responsible for producing hormones in a woman’s body.
The period following menopause, postmenopause, can be accompanied by an increased risk of getting osteoporosis or heart disease in women, especially those with pre-existing health issues. Regardless of the stage of your menopause, keeping active and having a good relationship with sleep and diet can go a long way in ensuring that your health is in a good condition to better manage whatever affliction nature throws your way.
Aside from the calcium and multi-vitamins, discussing your health problems with your doctor is one of the best ways to come up with a personalized plan that will help you to better manage menopause and age with grace.