There are certain unavoidable parts of life that every person will go through. For women, one of these is menopause. This can be a frustrating, painful and irritating time for every woman.
While menopause is unavoidable, we will share with you some tips that can help make this transition as comfortable for you as possible.
What is Menopause?
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s fertility. Once a woman goes through puberty, the hormones in her body cause her to go through a menstruation cycle once a month.
These hormones are known as estrogen and progesterone, and they play a significant role in the menstruation cycle and the reproductive system. Estrogen is particularly important, as it gives women many of the secondary sexual characteristics which differentiate women from men.
As women age, less of these hormones are produced. The time frame that women will go through menopause is based on several different factors, but most women will reach menopause by their early 50’s.
As less of these hormones are produced by the body, a woman’s period will change. It will either become shorter, longer, heavier or lighter. Eventually, these hormones are produced in such small amounts that menstruation will no longer occur. These hormonal changes also result in several different changes and side effects.
Other Causes of Menopause
While most women naturally go through menopause somewhere between their late 40s and early 50s, there are some other things which can accelerate the onset of menopause.
Undergoing a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or primary ovarian insufficiency can all lead to premature menopause.
Symptoms of Menopause:
Before completely going through menopause, a woman’s body will continue to change, and with these changes come several physical changes. This period iof time s known as perimenopause, and it is characterized by symptoms that include:
- Hot flashes
- Irregular menstruation
- Night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Problems sleeping
- Mood changes
- Changes in metabolism/weight gain
These symptoms vary in appearance and severity for each woman. Some women will only experience a few minor side effects, and the transition they will undergo will be smooth. However, most women will deal with the majority of these side effects, but the severity will differ from person to person.
Early Menopause Signs and Symptoms
For women who have undergone a hysterectomy, cancer treatment or those who suffer from primary ovarian insufficiency, they may experience symptoms much earlier than the average woman.
Early onset menopause symptoms are characterized by the same set of symptoms that affect women naturally going through menopause. The only difference is that for these women, the changes will occur much earlier, possibly as early as the mid-30s or early 40s.
For most women, the onset of symptoms combined with the aging process is enough to form a self-diagnosis. You can also consult with your doctor to reach a concrete diagnosis.
If the symptoms you are presenting are not enough for a diagnosis, your physician may order further testing to determine if you are going through menopause. Traditionally, blood tests are administered to determine your levels of certain hormones, including FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
There are also over the counter tests for FSH you can take which will reveal the level of this hormone present in your system. However, consulting with your doctor will provide a much clearer diagnosis.
Post Menopause Risk Factors
Once a woman has gone through menopause, they become at an increased risks for certain conditions. Before menopause, hormones like estrogen protect the body, but with less of these hormones being produced, women are at a greater risk.
As estrogen decreases, your risk of cardiovascular disease rises. This disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in America. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps you can take to help protect against this disease. A healthy diet and regular exercise are both great ways that women can shield themselves from the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Estrogen plays a crucial role in keeping bones healthy and strong. Without estrogen, women become more susceptible to this condition, which affects bone density and strength. After menopause, many women rapidly lose bone density, which will increase their risk of developing osteoporosis. It also increases their risk of bone breaks and fractures.
Menopause is also characterized by the slowing of metabolism. As our metabolism slows, it becomes easier for us to gain weight. Even if you have made no negative changes to your diet or exercise routine, it may be harder to maintain your weight. As a result, a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine become even more important. Plus, it will help protect against cardiovascular disease.
With less estrogen being produced, the vagina can become less elastic and less sensitive. There is also decreased moisture production which can also result in vaginal dryness. Your libido may also decrease. There are many steps you can take to reduce these side effects, such as using a water-based lubricant during sex or trying a prescription local estrogen treatment to reduce these side effects.
Over time, the vagina and urethra will lose elasticity. This may result in urinary incontinence, or sudden and frequent urges to urinate. To counteract this, many women begin Kegel exercises to strengthen their pelvis, which can help prevent incontinence. Many women opt for a hormone therapy regimen which can help eliminate the condition altogether.
Menopause Symptom Relief
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take which can help reduce menopause symptoms. There are some natural remedies that can decrease the severity of your symptoms. Many women also opt for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to mitigate their symptoms.
There are some foods and herbs which may help to reduce the appearance and severity of the symptoms of menopause. Foods which contain phytoestrogen, as well as certain supplements may help provide relief.
- Nuts and grains
- Black cohort
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B
- Dong Quai
- Black currant oil
In addition to these foods and supplements, there are other lifestyle changes you can make which may help reduce the appearance and severity of symptoms. Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol and spicy food consumption as well as getting more exercise are all effective ways to reduce these side effects.
Beyond these lifestyle changes, many women prefer to opt for a more comprehensive therapy regimens which can help relieve some of the more severe symptoms of menopause.
Since menopause is caused by our bodies producing less of certain hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, it stands to reason that supplementing these hormones can help eliminate the symptoms of menopause.
There are many different options available. Some menopause hormone replacement therapy regimens target specific symptoms of menopause, while others provide more comprehensive treatment.
These treatments are available in pills, creams, and ointments, as well as physical implants. Creams, ointments, and implants are popular ways of treating the sexual side effects of menopause, while pills are a popular option for general relief of symptoms.
Risks of Hormone Replacement
Unfortunately, there are some inherent risks with hormone replacement therapy that you must carefully consider before beginning treatment.
For well over 50 years, hormone replacement therapy has been a popular treatment for menopausal women. But, in the early 2000s, studies revealed that HRT might also have some harmful side effects of its own.
These studies suggest that HRT may increase a woman’s risk for developing certain types of cancers, including breast cancer. Further research has indicated that this increased risk may be attributable to age and that women under 60 don’t have an increased risk of developing cancer as a result of hormone replacement therapy.
Today, many doctors believe that the benefits of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the potential side effects. Before beginning HRT or any new medication, you must consult with your physician to determine the best course of action for you.
Who Should Avoid HRT
While hormone replacement therapy may be a viable option for many women, certain women should avoid this type of therapy altogether .If you are at heightened risk for certain types of cancers, or if you’re suffering from any of the conditions below, you should avoid HRT.
- Heart disease
- Blood clots
- Breast, endometrial or ovarian cancer
Every woman will undergo menopause at some point in their adult life. This condition marks a period of great change for every woman. While menopause is unavoidable, there are several steps you can take to help reduce or eliminate menopause symptoms.
If you have questions or concerns about menopause, you should contact your physician. Your doctor will be able to provide you with answers to your questions and create a unique treatment plan that will address your needs and make the process of undergoing menopause as easy as possible.