Menopause is a natural biological process occurring 12 months after the last menstrual period and marks the end of women’s childbearing years. Menopause occurs because the ovaries cease to function. The average age of menopause is 52 but it can happen as early as 30’s or as late as 60’s. The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is not related to the age of menopause and there is no reliable laboratory test to predict it.
Three types of menopause:
Natural – occurs when hormone levels oestrogen and progesterone decline naturally.
Premature – early menopause is when menstruation period stops before the age of 40 years. This can be due to genetic factor or medical conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease, and surgery or medications that have affected the function of the ovaries.
Artificial – menopause due to surgical removal of both ovaries or destruction of the ovaries by some cancer treatments.
The transition to menopause is called Perimenopause. It is the time leading up to a woman’s last period, when the ovaries slow down. The ovaries are still functioning and may still ovulate so it is still possible to get pregnant during this time. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are experiencing perimenopause symptoms, a physical exam, and your medical history may provide clues to you and your doctor.
Physical symptoms of menopause:
• Hot flushes and night sweats
• Irregular periods
• Hair loss
• Joint and bone pain
• Unusual skin sensations
• Urinary incontinence
• Weight gain
• Vaginal dryness, incontinence and infections of the urinary tract and vagina may occur due to the thinning of the vagina and bladder walls.
Psychological and cognitive symptoms:
• Loss of Libido
• Irritability and mood swings
• Difficulty concentrating
• Loss of confidence
• Memory Lapses
• Difficulty sleeping
Menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman; decision is personal and must be made after receiving thorough discussion with your doctor. If symptoms are bothersome there are some treatment options available:
Hormone Replacement Therapy – can be very good at relieving moderate to severe menopausal symptoms and preventing bone loss. It involves replacing hormones previously produced by the ovaries estrogen and progestin. It can be effective in relieving the symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. It can be given as tablets, skin patches and as vaginal preparations such as creams and pessaries.
Bioidentical Hormone Therapy – medication or formulation that contains manmade hormones that are the same as the hormones made by the body.
Estrogen therapy – is used to prevent weakening bones and the severe symptoms that come with premature menopause.
Antidepressants – can lower the severity of hot flashes, irritability, depression and moodiness.
Alternative and Complementary Treatment
Natural Hormones – hormones made from natural substance like estriol and Tri-Estrogen, natural progesterone, and DHEA. It is prescribed by health care providers and sold at special pharmacies.
Herbal preparations – some botanicals and herbal supplements may help relieve menopause. It includes evening primrose oil, black cohosh, red clover, wild yam, flaxseed and black currant oil.
Vitamins and minerals – menopausal symptoms can also be relieved by taking vitamins and mineral supplements like vitamin a, b, c, e, vitamin B-6 and B-3 and calcium.
Homeopathic remedies – experienced homeopath can prepare homeopathic remedies to help ease the symptoms of menopause.
Acupuncture – symptoms commonly associated with menopause are frequently treated with acupuncture. Few studies suggest that acupuncture can be effective in treating hot flushes, and also anxiety and depression related to menopause.
Massage therapy – helps ease depression, which many women experience during the menopausal transition. Massage can stimulate the adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, and parathyroid glands, which may help balance hormone production and lower the number of hot flashes.
Reflexology – provides the opportunity to work on reflex points that can influence hot flushes by working on reflex points connected to the thyroid and pituitary glands, nerve and blood supply for better circulation.
Lifestyle Changes – simple changes in lifestyle can reap huge benefits in fighting menopausal symptoms.
Diet – Studies have shown that diets rich in foods that promote estrogen levels (such as soy, apples, alfalfa, cherries, potatoes, rice, wheat and yams) are great menopause treatments.
Exercise – Women who exercise copes better with menopausal symptoms and also help protect themselves against other diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis.
A woman may use different menopause treatments at different times or any combination of them, depending on the severity of symptoms. If symptoms are severe then medical treatment is the final option. But it is wise to speak to a healthcare professional for guidance.