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Table of contents
- What is Menopause? Why Does it Happen?
- What Are the Three Stages of Menopause?
- What is Premature Menopause?
- Symptoms of Menopause
- How Long Do Menopausal Symptoms Last?
- Tips for Managing Menopause Symptoms
- Improved Diet
- The Benefits of Exercise for Menopause
- Managing and Treating Menopause
- Managing the Effects of Menopause with Calm
- Menopause Faqs
Menopause is a natural phase in the life of a woman. It typically happens during middle age, when the ovaries begin to produce less progesterone and estrogen hormones and stop releasing eggs. During menopause, women experience mood swings and physical changes such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness.
What is Menopause? Why Does it Happen?
Definition of Menopause
Menopause refers to the time when a woman’s menstrual cycle stops. She does not have any more periods, and she can no longer become pregnant. Menopause usually occurs between ages 45 to 55, but some women may experience menopause symptoms as early as their mid-30s or even late in their 50s. The average age is 51 years old.
During menopause, the ovaries stop producing two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, leading to a range of physical changes and modifications to menstrual cycles. Hormone levels then stay stable and low.
Early menopause happens between 40 and 45, while premature menopause can happen before 40.
Natural menopause refers to menopause naturally occurring during the aging process. In contrast, induced menopause refers to menopause following a surgical procedure where ovaries are removed or after hormone therapy to stop the production of ovarian hormones.
Which Hormonal Changes Happen During Menopause?
When a woman’s ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone, the levels of these two hormones naturally decrease. This reduction can cause several symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and changes in sexual desire. This article will cover the short-term and long-term effects of menopause due to these hormone changes.
What Are the Three Stages of Menopause?
Menopause is a gradual process typically consisting of three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopausal.
Perimenopause is the first stage and is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles. Menopause occurs when a woman had no menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, and postmenopause marks the end of the process when ovarian function completely stops.
What is Premature Menopause?
Premature menopause is menopause starting before age 40, either naturally or due to medical intervention, such as chemotherapy or surgery. Women who experience premature menopause often have more severe symptoms than those who experience menopause at a later age.
Early menopause is different from premature menopause in terms of onset. Early menopause starts between the ages of 40 to 45 years old.
Symptoms of Menopause
Let’s examine the most common menopause symptoms. Their occurrence, intensity, and frequency can vary significantly between women.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Hot flashes and night sweats describe short-term episodes from as little as a few seconds up to a few minutes when the body releases too much heat, leaving a woman feeling flushed and sweaty. These sudden and intense flashes of heat are due to a malfunction of the thermoregulatory system triggered by low estrogen levels.
Hot flashes and night sweats can disrupt a woman’s sleep, leaving her tired and irritable as she has not fully rested at night.
In addition, as women undergo many body and life changes, they might experience anxiety and depression, which can disrupt sleep.
Women can have difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or both, making insomnia a common complaint – along with daily or nightly hot flashes – among menopausal women.
Menopause marks the end of menstrual periods, but some women may experience irregular bleeding before menopause. During menopause, vaginal tissues become thinner and drier due to decreased estrogen levels, resulting in uncomfortable itching and burning sensations. Over time, vaginal dryness can also lead to thinning of the walls of the vagina, making it more susceptible to tears and other damage.
Apart from the uncomfortable symptoms experienced, vaginal dryness can also lead to an increased risk of infections. This is because the reduced lubrication makes it easier for bacteria and other pathogens to enter and cause infections. Additionally, a lack of adequate lubrication can also make it difficult for women to enjoy sexual activity, leading to a decrease in libido or even painful intercourse.
The good news is that you can manage these symptoms during this transition period in several ways. We will review the most common alternatives to manage these health conditions.
Emotional Changes and Mood Swings
Fluctuating hormone levels can cause mood changes. These can range from pretty mild to severe, including irritability, depression, anxiety, and impatience. In addition, the wide range of menopause symptoms and poor sleep can exacerbate these emotional changes. As a result, many women may experience mood swings and experience mental strain.
Memory and Concentration Issues
The decrease in estrogen can have multiple effects on the brain, some direct and others indirect. First, a reduction in estrogen levels can directly create memory issues. But this forgetfulness can also be indirectly magnified by the consequences of sleep disturbance in the form of intense flashes of heat at night.
Other Symptoms of Menopause
Estrogen helps regulate weight and appetite, so less of it can exacerbate cravings and increase body fat.
This mechanism plays at two levels. First, the body does not expend as much energy for the same activity because of a decreased metabolism. Second, as women in their 40s or 50s tend to exercise less, they are less likely to spend the calories they absorb. Fortunately, women can take steps to prevent or reduce weight gain.
Joint and muscle pain
Other menopause symptoms may include joint and muscle pain. Decreased estrogen production can lead to decreased collagen production, reducing hence the elasticity of ligaments and tendons, and therefore leading to increased stiffness and pain. Additionally, dehydration caused by hot flashes may also worsen joint pain.
Lower levels of estrogen can lead to dry and itchy skin. In addition, the continued decrease in collagen may deepen wrinkles and increase skin discoloration. Hair thinning and shedding might also occur at that time.
Some women might have facial hair growth because testosterone levels are higher than estrogens. As always, not all women go through these changes, and there are ways to manage these menopause effects through better lifestyle choices.
Most women experience hot flashes, night sweats, sleep issues, and vaginal dryness. But the relationship between menopause and headaches is not as clear cut.
Some women may have fewer or less severe headaches after menopause, while others may experience more frequent or worse headaches as soon as menopause starts. Furthermore, women with no history of hormonal headaches can sometimes begin to feel more headaches during perimenopause.
As always, consult your medical healthcare provider if you notice any change in your headache patterns when approaching menopause.
How Long Do Menopausal Symptoms Last?
The duration of menopausal symptoms can vary greatly. Most women experience them for up to four years, but that duration can extend to 10 years. Some women may have milder symptoms that last longer, while others may have more severe symptoms that resolve quickly. Every woman is different. So, remember to talk to a doctor if menopausal symptoms interfere with daily life or cause discomfort.
What Are the Long-Term Health Risks Associated with Menopause?
The changes taking place during menopause can have long-term adverse consequences, exacerbating a sense of isolation and therefore reducing the joy of social interaction. These longer-term risks are urinary incontinence, cardiovascular disease, and injury due to lower bone density.
Incontinence and Bladder Control
During menopause, estrogen levels decrease, leading to thinning of the bladder and uterine walls. This change may lead to frequent urination, urinary incontinence, and an increased risk of urinary tract infections.
Estrogen helps protect against heart disease, so its decline with age increases a woman’s risk for developing cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and heart attack. Estrogen helps keep the blood vessels flexible, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The hormone drop reverses this effect.
Osteoporosis and Joint Pain
Estrogen helps protect against bone loss, so its reduction over time increases a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis, experiencing joint pain, and bone fractures.
Sleepless Nights and Insomnia
Fluctuating hormones can cause sleep disturbances such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. These episodes can disrupt sleep and facilitate the onset of insomnia. In addition, the accumulation of sleepless nights or the inability to sleep continuously at night can cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and a weakened immune system.
Decreased estrogen levels can also cause a decrease in sexual desire and satisfaction. Low libido is common during menopause. As always consult with your doctor if the problem persists.
Tips for Managing Menopause Symptoms
Most body systems go through drastic changes. For example, the reproductive and endocrine systems may be the first two systems that come to mind because of the disrupted menstrual cycle and hormone changes, respectively. But many more systems are impacted: the nervous system, through mood swings, and the cardiovascular system, through elevated risk of a heart attack or a stroke, may require medical interventions.
That is why making better lifestyle choices can help reduce risk factors. For example, smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity contribute to the development of long-term risks for menopausal women. Here are a few tips for relieving the effects of menopause.
Avoid Triggers to Hot Flashes
Hot flashes can be debilitating, but small changes in your diet and activities can relieve hot flashes by helping minimize the frequency or intensity of hot flashes. These simple modifications include:
- Avoid alcohol and spicy foods,
- Stay away from caffeine,
- Wear loose-fitting clothing,
- Keep the room temperature cool,
- Avoid warm environments, and
- Take short breaks during hot days
Listen to Self-Hypnosis Audios
Did you know that self-hypnosis could help you sleep better, release stress and reduce menopausal symptoms? Hypnosis is already used in European hospitals to manage anxiety and pain. Research shows that self-hypnosis can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes, its efficacy being on par with some hormone replacement therapy.
In addition, a self-hypnosis session can become the central part of your daily mindfulness practice to reduce stress levels, improve your focus and mental clarity, and reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
Lifestyle choices determine a large portion of visits to the doctor, from diabetes and heart disease to high blood pressure. A few lifestyle modifications can significantly improve your well-being and help you age gracefully by maintaining your cognitive abilities.
For example, limiting passive activities such as watching TV or browsing the web and choosing instead mentally stimulating activities such as reading or doing games can make a significant difference.
In addition, a few good habits can make your nights more restful. For example, improving your sleep hygiene might just require regular bedtimes, light food at dinner, and a relaxing and cool bedroom. Then, as your sleep quality improves, you can tap into a replenished reservoir of energy to exercise and remain active.
Eating a balanced and healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and proteins provides the right building blocks needed by the body and, as a result, can help improve overall health. In addition, eating foods with Omega-3 fatty acids or plant estrogens may also reduce menopausal symptoms.
Because weight gain can become a concern for postmenopausal women, losing weight through healthy eating and exercise can reduce some of the long-term risks of heart disease and osteoporosis.
The Benefits of Exercise for Menopause
Regular exercise is an essential part of managing menopause symptoms. Exercise helps reduce stress and fatigue, improve sleep quality, and boost mood. It also helps strengthen bones, regulate hormones, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Exercise has many benefits beyond sleep and the reduction of chronic diseases. Remaining active is one of the pillars of a healthier brain and better cognitive abilities. The other pillars include:
- Creating a daily routine.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Eating healthily and engaging in a mindfulness activity like self-hypnosis.
These foundations embedded into good lifestyle changes and self-care practices can improve memory, concentration, and mental clarity.
Talking to a counsellor or therapist can provide support and help manage stress, depression, and anxiety. Remember that there is nothing wrong with you. You are going through a transition, and you can make it as calm as possible by seeking counsel with a therapist.
Join Support Groups
Seeking support from a menopause support group can provide a safe space to talk and share experiences with other women going through the same experience.
Managing and Treating Menopause
Women have access to many solutions for treating hot flashes and alleviating the main symptoms of menopause. They include hormone therapy and self-hypnosis.
What is Hormone Therapy for Menopause Like?
Hormone therapy is a treatment option for menopause that involves taking estrogen and progesterone to help manage symptoms. This treatment is based on individual needs and is prescribed by a doctor or gynaecologist.
Are There Any Risks to Hormone Therapy?
Hormone therapy can have many side effects, including breast tenderness, bloating, headache, nausea, and elevated cholesterol levels.
One of the most well-known risks is breast cancer. A 2020 study confirmed that older women were at a higher risk of breast cancer when receiving hormone replacement therapy. As a result, it is usually prescribed at the lowest dose possible to reduce any potential side effects.
Any woman undergoing hormone therapy should seek medical advice from her healthcare provider to monitor its side effects.
Self-Hypnosis Management Programs
Self-hypnosis is a technique used by many women to manage the symptoms of menopause. Its benefits include:
- reduced stress levels,
- improved sleep quality,
- reduced hot flashes in intensity and frequency
- better control of emotions such as anxiety and depression and
- increased feelings of relaxation.
Additionally, self-hypnosis can be done anywhere and at any time.
Using a Vaginal Lubricant
Vaginal lubricants or prescription vaginal creams can help menopausal women relieve vaginal dryness. Lubricants are applied directly to the vagina before sexual activity, creating a protective layer on vaginal tissue and helping reduce irritation and discomfort. Additionally, many lubricants also contain moisturizing ingredients that help lubricate and nourish the vaginal walls.
Managing the Effects of Menopause with Calm
Developing a calm and relaxed mindset can help manage the effects of menopause. In addition, practicing self-hypnosis, getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, and taking time for yourself can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Menopause is a natural process with new challenges to women’s lives. Know that various treatment options are available. With the proper support and care, women can manage their menopausal symptoms and enjoy a healthy life.
Menopause can have a negative impact on oral health due to the decrease in estrogen production. Lower estrogen levels can lead to dry mouth, which can make teeth and gums more prone to cavities and gum disease. Additionally, women may also experience burning sensations or soreness in their mouths. To maintain optimal oral health during menopause, women should maintain a healthy diet, practice good oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing regularly, and visit their dentist for regular check-ups. Additionally, drinking plenty of water and healthy liquids can also help reduce dryness and irritation.
Yes, menopause can affect memory and concentration due to hormonal changes. But you can reduce these effects by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in stinulating activities like games and getting enough sleep. Additionally, reducing stress levels with self-hypnosis programs and engaging in stimulating activities can help.
Menopause can contribute to the development of dry eyes, which can cause irritation and blurriness.
Yes, menopause can trigger facial hair growth due to decreased estrogen levels.
Yes, menopause symptoms can lead to depression and trigger mood swings and other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. However, lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a proper diet, exercising regularly, and releasing stress can help manage depression during menopause. Additionally, hypnotherapy may also be recommended to help reduce symptoms of depression.
Yes, postmenopausal women can still have an orgasm.
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