According to statistics, there are 37.5 million women at the moment who are experiencing menopause. The average age of menopause is 51. Studies purport that women may undergo three stages of menopause. These stages may affect their lives in many ways. Aside from the physical symptoms, menopause may bring forth several other difficulties which at some point can take their toll on sufferers. This condition pinpoints the lack of or lowered number of estrogen in a woman’s body as the cause of its varied symptoms. Although some women may not have the symptoms at all, Dr. Alan Alperstein writing for Health365, said that “women will not be safe from the negative effects of lack of estrogen from their body”. Let’s take a look at the three stages that a woman may undergo during menopause.
Three Menopausal Stages
First Stage: Perimenopausal
photo: Sylvia McFadden
Perimenopausal is the stage prior to menopause itself. However, menopause symptoms may manifest at this point. During this stage, a woman is near the end of her menstruation. This time, a woman’s ovaries may start to produce less estrogen. At some point, this sex hormone may start to fluctuate. At this stage, a woman still have the possibility of getting pregnant. Perimenopause may start in a woman in her early 40’s although some women may experience it during their mid-30’s.
Second Stage: Menopausal
photo: Sylvia McFadden
Menopause begins when a woman hasn’t had a menstrual period for 12 months. During this time, there will be a continued lowering of estrogen and the symptoms which were introduced in the perimenopausal stage continue. Menopause, as opposed to the views of some, is a natural phenomenon in a woman’s life.
Third Stage: Post Menopausal
Post menopause is the stage when a woman has hurdled over the first two stages. Even at this stage, a woman can still experience some of the symptoms. At this point, however, the biggest difficulty that a woman will face is the higher risk of heart attack, stroke and osteoporosis which are all said to be affected by low estrogen levels.
Menopause is completely normal among women. It will be experienced by every woman who get past the fertile stage of her life. Queensland Government site discussed this phase in depth in this informative article, Menopasue, and tagged this experience as an “unsettling time” depending on the symptoms.
Hot flashes occur during the night and/or day, and can be very uncomfortable. This sensation brings a feeling of sudden yet transient heat over the body, or specific parts of it. It may leave the skin red and is often fairly noticeable in the face. Hot flashes can range from mild warm feeling to severe, engulfing heat. This is caused by the erratic production of estrogen. Although it doesn’t affect everybody, it happens among more than 50% of women with menopause.
Night sweats can be caused by severe hot flashes. It occurs during sleep which more often than not may disrupt slumber and cause stress the day after. One tip for hot flushes includes making the environment cool or keeping your sleeping area pleasant. Taking a cool shower before sleeping is also advisable to help reduce the flashes. However, night sweats may also be a signal of an underlying medical condition which is why it’s a good idea to check with your doctor first for clear advice.
For possible remedies, check this article What Can You Do for Hot Flashes and Other Menopausal Symptoms from US’s National Institute on Aging.
Vaginal dryness may result in itchiness and irritation. Again, this is caused by the drop of the estrogen production in the body. Lower estrogen results in direr, thinner and less elastic vaginal tissues which may affect sexual experience as well.
Loss of Libido
One probable reason of libido loss is mentioned above. However, the hormonal imbalance experienced may also cause lowered sexual desire. Menopause affects sexuality in one way or the other. Click this link on Menopause and Sexuality from womenshealth.gov for further reading on the subject.
There are several ways a menopausal woman can experience incontinence. One, when urine is accidentally released when one laughs or exerts some effort, two, when a woman urinates accidentally because there is no full bladder sensation and three, the person may have the chance to stop the urge to urinate but cannot resist it. There are other causes of incontinence though, which you might not attribute solely to menopause. This may include weakening of pelvic floor muscles, damage in the nerve during childbirth, increased stomach pressure, among others. NHS UK tackled this issue and its casues in this article, Urinary incontinence – Causes.
Menopause may also bring about sudden mood swings and women may find themselves fighting against depression. This roller coaster of emotions is another result of the hormonal imbalance. When estrogen is lowered, the mood-regulating transmitters in the brain also may experience erratic drops and rises. This is the reason why most women undergoing the menopausal phase experience sudden and intense emotions.
Aside from the mood swings we mentioned, depression is another big problem for women going through menopause. It is a sudden bout with sadness accompanied by feelings of unexplained unhappiness. It can be mild to severe. It can persist from day to day life and may affect sleep, eating habits and may result in a withdrawal from social life.
Anxiety is another psychological side effect of lowered hormones. A woman may feel agitated and lose emotional control. Severe effects of anxiety include panic attacks. At some point this can be very destructive. During menopause, mental health is fragile. Womenshealth.gov give an in depth discussion about menopause and mental health which you may access here.
Most menopausal women are still at the peak of their career. Long office hours and bodily changes may take a toll on a woman’s reserve of energies and may cause fatigue. Fatigue may not only result in weakness and lack of rest, it may also produce irritability, apathy and drowsiness. In a Harvard newsletter, it has been suggested that to be able to manage such symptoms, women should choose to make lifestyle changes first before going for the medical treatments. Read the this Special Heath Report from Harvard Medical School here.
Lightheadedness and a spinning sensation are common sensations among menopausal women. These episodes of dizziness can lead to inability to maintain balance and may result in a fall and may further impact daily activities.
Menopause can affect the body’s fat distribution and weight gain. Since there are fewer amounts of estrogen in the body, the remaining estrogen leads the body to retain more fat cells. The lowered testosterone results in a slower metabolic rate. Diet change and exercise are possible ways to reduce weight gain.
Most women undergoing their menopausal stage experience palpitation. The lack or the deficiency of estrogen in a woman’s body may result in the over stimulation of the nervous and circulatory systems. This causes heartbeats that are irregular. Although irregular heartbeats is a known symptom of menopause, it can also be a signal of a more serious heart disease (also common among post-menopausal women). In University of Maryland Medical Center’s piece about menopause, there are various preventive actions that can be taken in order to avoid conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis after menopause. This includes quitting smoking, asking doctors for advice about supplements, exercise, eating healthy food and possible HRT.
Although it may not occur everyday, digestive problems can manifest at some point in the three phases of menopause. This can include the symptoms of cramping, nausea and even excessive gas production. The reason for this is there is a disruption in the natural food transition in the digestive system.
Hair thinning is noticeable among women in their 50’s but it is preventable. This hair loss can be sudden or gradual. The hair will start to get drier and brittle and every hair in the body starts to thin out including pubic hair. Female hair loss can be avoided through the options outlined by a Harvard article:
- hair transplant
Tips for Managing Menopause Symptoms
Menopause is a completely normal occurrence but if it brings forth several annoying and life changing symptoms, it shouldn’t be ignored. You can either go to your doctor or try to do some of the following simple tips. Note: These tips are gathered through various health articles but shouldn’t be used as an alternative to a professional doctor’s advice.
- Employ acupuncture. This old healing techniques may help reduce hot flashes and may help improve sleep. Acupuncture may target certain nerves in the body to address the symptom. It has been approved as an alternative treatment already to many menopause symptom. Betterhealth.voic.gov.au listed acupuncture as one of the most helpful complimentary therapies there is.
- Drink omega-3 supplements. The omega-3 found in fish , krill or calamari oil has the special capacity to tone down the adverse effects of menopause symptoms. It contains the beneficial and healthy oil in the form of fatty acids DHA and EPA. Read a study here.
- Exercise. Exercise will help you stay away from weight gain but it can also strengthen your body which will help you receive the menopause’s impact without being deterred. Other ways to exercise include meditation techniques such as yoga and Pilates.
- Stick to a healthy diet. What better way to combat your ailing health than to strengthen your body? Once you have the capacity to fight off the crippling side effects of menopause symptoms, then you will find out that undergoing the phase is not that hard after all.
- Increase your calcium intake. Since you are already looking forward to the bone attack that lowered estrogen may incur, you can amp up your calcium intake to help avoid osteoporosis later. calcium is the main food for the bone but the omega-3 we mentioned above is also very helpful in fighting bone density loss.
- Get a good nights sleep. It can be tricky but you can do it. Getting enough sleep will help you prepare for the next day. Bathing in a soothing tub and using therapeutic oils can help. Cool down your room a bit, wear comfortable clothes and turn off all the gadgets inside your room. Also, avoid caffeine during the hours before sleep.
- Try some medical therapies. Hormone therapies can be helpful but should first be recommended by your doctor.
- Seek social support. Seek people who are undergoing or have been through the same thing as you and exchange notes. Try to talk to your friends and do not shut your self out from being social.
Now, have you experienced several other symptoms aside from this? If yes, let us know by leaving a comment below. Other good sources of information for Menopause:
- Menopause and Hormones: Common Questions – From US Food and Drug Administration
- When menopause ‘comes roaring,’ what do you do? – CNN
- A natural approach to menopause – Health365
- Menopause – HealthDirect Australia
- Menopause – Healthfinder.gov
- Perimenopause: Rocky road to menopause – Harvard Newsletter
featured image: Javcon117*