Menopause. This word is feared by a lot of women all over the world. They feel that menopause is equivalent to losing their womanhood. Many women find menopause to be a very difficult time in their lives, emotionally, physically, and socially. But there are some out there who do just fine. The key to accepting menopause is to be educated about it, and to know what to expect. Your Houston Gynecologist will help you understand menopause as well as help you find solutions for your menopause symptoms.
What is Menopause?
Menopause refers to the absence of menstrual periods for more than a year already. On average, this happens to women at around 50 years of age. But starting at around mid-40s, women can start to feel menopause symptoms as gradual changes happening to their bodies. Some transitions may be so gradual that some women cannot feel them happening. This period in the life of a woman is called perimenopause. During this time, hormone levels slowly decrease, causing changes in menstrual cycles.
All women experience these two phases, perimenopause and menopause, differently. And even more varied are the coping mechanisms they use to deal with it. If you know what to expect, chances are, you’ll know how to relieve the menopause symptoms. Since menopause symptoms are a frequent cause for doctor visits, your physician can guide you with expertise through this period of life.
What are Menopause Symptoms?
Perimenopause is comparable to puberty – a time for the body to undergo some major changes. Only, perimenopause is the opposite. Whereas puberty is the time of raging hormones, perimenopause is when your hormone levels are on the decline. Symptoms vary from woman to woman, and may also vary in severity.
Hot flashes are probably one of the most uncomfortable symptoms associated with perimenopause. You feel a sudden heat rushing to your upper body and face, and you suddenly find yourself breaking out in sweat. These can sometimes be embarrassing for some women. When hot flashes occur while you’re sleeping, they are called night sweats. They sometimes interrupt your sleep, and when they do, they leave you feeling unrested the next morning.
Vaginal and Urinary Changes
Estrogen is responsible for making the vagina thick, moist, and elastic. As the levels of this hormone decrease, so does your vagina start to get thinner, less elastic, and feel drier. Some women notice that it takes longer for them to get moist during sexual intercourse.
Decreasing levels of estrogen can also weaken the supporting tissues of your urinary tract, making you more prone to contracting urinary infections. Also, you may experience more frequent voidings. This is also worsened by the fact that as people get older, they tend to feel less thirsty and thus drink less.
Bones change as we get older. The process of gradual bone loss begins by age 30 but increases dramatically during the first few years of menopause due to the decreasing supply of estrogen. This makes post-menopausal women prone to develop osteoporosis. Coupled with the fact that older people gradually lose their sense of balance, they are more prone to falls and to fractures.
The hormone estrogen is also considered a protectant for the heart and blood vessels. Decreased production of estrogen during menopause makes women more prone to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke. In fact, about 450,000 women die of cardiovascular causes every year, a staggering figure compared to 72,000 who die because of lung cancer and 40,500 because of breast cancer. Additionally, being middle-aged doesn’t help at all. Midlife is the time when more people develop diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Many perimenopausal women experience sleep problems. Some find it more difficult to fall asleep at night, and some find it difficult to wake up early in the morning. Also, you may experience night sweats which interfere with sleep. Because of these disruptions in sleeping patterns, many perimenopausal women don’t get enough rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep. REM is the time when the body recovers the most, and not getting enough REM sleep means not getting enough rest. Many women feel more fatigued throughout the day, and this might potentially affect her moods, her health, and even her relationships with other people.
Menopause can be a very difficult time because of the many bodily changes that happen, not to mention the midlife crisis that many people eventually go through. Some symptoms might be just mild, but some can be very frightening. To cope well with this period in life, many women will do well to know about the changes that will take place, and do some measures to alleviate them or make them more tolerable.
Although the effects of menopause are many and varied, several treatments are available to help alleviate the symptoms. You can read about these in the article “Managing Menopause-Treatment and Therapy”.