Just like periods, the journey to the end of periods is also different for everyone. While some people get there without too much trouble, menopause can bring in a hurricane of physical and mental changes for some others. From your blood flow to the intensity of period pain, menopause can turn everything around and leave you confused. However, educating yourself about it and knowing what to expect can help you manage the inevitable better. So soak up on all the info on menopause and prep yourself for the end of a bloody era:
What Is Menopause?
Menopause occurs when one doesn’t menstruate for 12 consecutive months. It marks the end of your periods as well as your fertility. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. You may start experiencing hormonal changes eight-ten years before actually hitting menopause. These changes might be quite subtle in the beginning but their intensity and severity may increase as you near the menopause mark. During the later years leading up to this point, you may notice changes in your monthly cycles, experience hot flashes, or other symptoms. This stage of menopausal transition is called perimenopause (around menopause).
When Can Menopause Affect You?
According to a study published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health, the average age at which a woman hits menopause is 46.2 in India and 51 in the United States. This means that the menopausal transition may begin during your 30s or 40s.
When Does Menopause Begin & How Long Does It Last?
Menopause usually occurs between the age of 40-50. However, in rare cases, it can also happen as early as your 30s. Factors like surgeries involving removal of uterus or ovaries, cancer treatments, breast cancer, early period (before the age of 11), and genetics can trigger premature menopause. As far as the duration is concerned, menopause itself is a year-long stage of not getting your period. But you may start noticing symptoms like hot flashes, irregular or scanty periods, and weight gain several years before that. In fact, these symptoms may last for another one-two years after you hit menopause (postmenopausal stage). But their intensity usually decreases over time.
Causes Of Early Menopause
Menopause before the age of 40 is considered as premature menopause. But you can also get it in your 30s. Here are some of the common reasons behind it:
-Chemotherapy or radiation to treat cancer.
-Surgery that removes your ovaries.
-Surgery that removes your uterus (hysterectomy).
-Getting your first period before age 11.
-Chromosomal abnormalities like Fragile X or Turner’s syndrome.
-Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease or thyroid disease.
-Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
-Having HIV or AIDS.
-Infections like mumps.
Signs & Symptoms Of Menopause
Menopause can trigger a host of changes in your body due to a gradual drop in your estrogen levels. Here’s what to expect:
Changes In Menstrual Cycle
The first most noticeable change before you finally hit full stop on periods is a change in the normal pattern of your monthlies. They may become irregular or scanty. You may even notice a few spots instead of a soaked pad or experience less or more period pain than usual. Eventually you’ll stop having periods altogether.
Effect On Mental Health
Lower levels of estrogen can cause a dip in your serotonin levels. For the unversed, serotonin is a chemical present in your blood platelets that plays several roles in your body, including influencing learning, memory, happiness as well as regulating body temperature, sleep, sexual behaviour and hunger. Lack of serotonin can cause mood swings, depression, anxiety trouble concentrating, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability.
Common physical symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, dizziness, sleep issues, night sweats, palpitations, muscle aches and joint pain, unexplained weight gain, headaches and migraines, dry or itchy skin, vaginal dryness, reduced sex drive, and recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Can Menopause Affect Sleep?
According to a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine Clinics, “Sleep disturbances increase in prevalence during the menopausal transition, with the most common complaint being nighttime awakenings.” Now, this could be due to hot flashes that happen during night time. Additionally, changes in mood and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety which can be triggered or aggravated during or before menopause can also cause sleep disturbances and lead to insomnia. Menopause-induced insomnia can last for a few days to months depending on its effect on serotonin levels. However, one must consult with a doc if the sleep problems persist in order to prevent it from becoming a long-term issue.
Can Menopause Affect Your Sex Life?
The menopausal transition is marked by a gradual drop in estrogen, the main sex female hormone produced by the ovaries. It can go down more drastically as you come closer to the end of your periods. Menopause finally kicks in when the ovaries produce so little estrogen that these eggs are no longer released and your period stops. This natural decline of estrogen can affect your sex life. It can lead to vaginal dryness, pain during sexual intercourse, and low libido. Mood swings and changes in mental health conditions can contribute further to your lack of interest in sex. While using a lubricant can help you combat the issue of painful intercourse, talking to a therapist can help you take charge of your emotional health and enjoy better sex.
Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain?
According to a 2021 study, steady gain of approximately 0.5 kg per year is largely related to age rather than menopause. However, weight gain during this phase can be attributed to a lower level of energy due to estrogen deficiency. The menopause-induced fatigue can make you sluggish and less motivated to stay active, thereby making you gain weight. Lack of estrogen is also linked with slowing down your metabolism and storage or abdominal fat. But the weight gain due to these factors can be prevented or controlled with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
Does Menopause Affect Your Teeth Or Mouth?
A 2013 study suggests that our teeth and gums are extremely susceptible to any hormonal changes that take place just before menopause.These changes weaken the body’s defence against infections and disturb the balance between the healthy and harmful bacteria. This in turn can lead to oral health issues like dry mouth, gum recession, tooth pain, gum disease, and more. However, a balanced diet, doc-recommended health supplements, and maintaining sound oral hygiene is the key to keeping oral-health issues at bay during menopause.
Can Menopause Cause Facial Hair Growth?
An increase in facial hair growth is usually noticed after menopause. This is because during the post-menopausal stage, the ovaries already stop producing the female sex hormone–estrogen. But both the ovaries and the adrenal glands continue to make male hormones, such as androgen testosterone. This shift in the ratio of male to female hormones can lead to development of male characteristics like excessive facial hair growth and female pattern baldness.
How To Take Care Of Yourself During Menopause
Menopause calls for some special self-care measures apart from sticking to a balanced, healthy diet and leading an active lifestyle. You must go for regular health screenings and report any unusual symptoms like unbearable hot flashes, extreme fatigue or mood swings, and prolonged sleep disturbances to your doc immediately. You must also avoid salty, oily food, alcohol, and smoking as they can aggravate the symptoms and make your life tougher during this phase. Lastly, keep a portable electric fan and a heat patch or hot water bottle handy to combat hot flashes or pain. If your symptoms are too intense, your doc may recommend hormone-replacement therapy. But remember not to take any drastic steps without the approval and supervision of certified health experts.
Sirona Recommends Best Products To Manage Menopause
Sirona Feminine Pain Relief Patch
You can ditch your painkillers and count on Sirona’s Feminine Pain Relief Patch to reduce abdominal pain before or during menopause. Sticking this sleek patch can provide instant relief from pain without causing any side-effects. That’s because it is made with natural pain-relieving ingredients like menthol and eucalyptus oil. It is easy to carry and stays effective for eight-ten hours.
Sirona Pain-Relief Heat Patch
Made with 100% natural ingredients, the Pain Relief Heat Patch by Sirona is the perfect, side-effect free alternative to dealing with any pain during menopause. Sticking this patch on your abdomen can work like a soothing balm. These portable wonders can provide heat relief for up to eight hours straight and can be disposed of easily after each use.
Sirona Herbal Headache Relief Patch
Stress and hormonal changes can manifest as full-fledged headaches during menopause. But instead of popping painkillers, you can count on Sirona’s Herbal Headache Relief Patch for instant relief. Packed with the goodness of menthol, camphor, and clove oil, they’re a much-needed break from messy balms with a burning sensation.
Sirona Feminine Cramp Relief Roll On
The Sirona Cramp Relief Roll On can be used on your lower back, abdomen, and legs. Packed with all-natural ingredients like lavender oil, clove oil, cinnamon, and eucalyptus, it helps relieve period pain during menopause. It’s calming aroma helps relax your muscles and the smooth roll-on application makes it convenient to use. No side-effects, no pain!
Sirona Dry Comfort Panty Liner
Sirona’s Dry Comfort Panty Liners are just what you need to manage spotting or light period flow during the perimenopause phase. They provide protection from staining if you get a light period unexpectedly. Made with ultra-soft cotton, they’re breathable, wafer-thin, and have a “no-wear feel”. So you can step out feeling confident and comfortable at the same time.
We hope that this info and these products help you prep for menopause and deal with it without feeling clueless or confused. All the best!
*This article has been reviewed by Dr Padmaja Veeramachaneni
Dr. Padmaja Veeramachaneni is one of the most experienced Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Vijaywada with 20 years of experience in her field. She specialises in treating high-risk pregnancies, pregnancies with polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), infertility, and hysteroscopy. She is currently associated with Apollo Hospitals.
Featured Image: Pexels
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