Menopause refers to any of the changes a woman goes through as she is nearing the end of her reproductive years.
A woman is born with a finite number of eggs. These eggs are stored in the woman’s ovaries and released each month during ovulation from the time of the female’s first menstruation. The ovaries are also responsible for releasing the hormones that regulate the woman’s menstrual cycle.
As the woman ages and her eggs run out, she starts to experience several changes in her body. These changes coincide with her eggs running out and the hormonal changes that accompany the process.
Perimenopause refers to the stage before menopause in which the ovaries start to make less and less estrogen. A woman is said to be menopausal when she has not had her menstrual cycle in a year or more.
The postmenopausal stage is the stage after menopause in which most menopausal symptoms will have already ceased, but health risks associated with low estrogen levels rise.
- The effects of menopause and what you can do about them
Menopause can be an uncomfortable time for most women. Some of the signs of menopause include irritability, fatigue, migraines, changes in libido and even insomnia. Below are some of the most common symptoms of menopause and what you can do to combat them.
1. Mood Swings
A more direct way of dealing with moodiness is to ask your doctor for a prescription of low-dose oral contraceptives. These pills may reduce hot flashes and vaginal dryness as well. You could also look into menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), but this treatment poses certain risks for some people so you should definitely consult your doctor before deciding to go for it.
The erratic hormonal changes that happen in your body during menopause have been known to induce depression. If you suspect that you could be depressed, consult your doctor.
Getting enough sleep and exercise and slowing down a little bit in life are more natural ways of dealing with your mood swings.
2. Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are some of the most bothersome side effects of menopause. To manage hot flashes, we would suggest taking down notes when it starts happening. They can be triggered by the weather, coffee, spicy food, lack of sleep or alcohol. Writing down what you felt and ate before and during a hot flash could help you identify what triggers them.
Dressing in layers is also a good idea as you can just peel off one layer when your hot flashes occur without having to expose yourself.
MHT is also a good option for you if you are not at risk, as are low dosage contraceptives.
3. Difficulty Sleeping
Insomnia is a common symptom of menopause, which is probably why so many menopausal women become cranky. One of the best things to do to prevent insomnia is to exercise in the early hours of the day. Don’t work out late into the night though because the increased energy you get from your exercise could prevent you from falling asleep.
Another thing you could do is to avoid eating carbs and heavy meals at night, avoid caffeine in the afternoons and working before bed time. If all else fails, talk to your doctor about certain medications you can take for your insomnia.
4. Vaginal Dryness
Your love life certainly does not have to stop just because you’ve hit menopause, but vaginal dryness can sometimes get in the way of arousal. To ease things along, water-based over the counter lubricants such as Astroglide and K-Y jelly can be used. Over the counter moisturizers like Replens may also reintroduce much needed moisture and lubrication if used every few days.
5. Risk For Osteoporosis
There is a direct link between the reduced levels of estrogen in perimenopausal and menopausal women and the development of osteoporosis.
Estrogen is a regulator of compounds that induce bone resorption, so the lowered levels of estrogen could result in an increased activity of these compounds. A way to fight and prevent osteoporosis is to introduce more calcium-rich foods in your diet and include weight bearing exercises in your exercise regimen.