Your mother has undergone it and you shall eventually experience it too. Yes, I'm talking about the dreaded time in a woman's life when your hormones go topsy turvy and leave you grappling with the loss of your womanhood- the cessation of your monthly menstrual cycles or “Menopause”.
Menopause is a challenging phase in a woman’s life. Lots of physical and bodily changes occur that affect her emotionally too. Preparing yourself mentally for such changes helps in countering this phase in a better manner. Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual cycle for twelve months. It means the ovaries no longer produce eggs and their function ceases. In such a condition, the child bearing ability of a woman ceases marking the end of her reproductive years. This generally happens between the ages of 45 to 50 years. But this age may vary from person to person.
The menopausal changes vary from person to person. Here are the conditions that you should look out for in the menopause period:
Hot flashes and night sweats:
In pre menopause or menopause period you may get up in the middle of the night all sweaty and clammy with your heart racing hard and feelings of anxiety. Your body may feel on fire and it may be difficult to calm down easily and go back to sleep. These are signs of hot flashes and night sweats.
It happens due to fluctuations in the estrogen levels due to menopause. These hormonal ups and downs send confusing signals to your hypothalamus that is responsible for regulating your body temperature.
This heats up your body suddenly and the thermostat of your body tries to cool it down. Your blood vessels dilate and your body perspires that leaves you feeling chilly and drenched with sweat in the middle of the night. Hot flashes and night sweats may also indicate towards your heart health.
Ensure proper ventilation before you sleep and wear loose and comfortable clothes. Exercise regularly and practice deep breathing techniques and meditation to relieve hot flashes and night sweats.
Menopause may cause vaginal atrophy in some cases. Its symptoms include dryness of vagina, itching and burning sensations in the vagina or vulva area.
The acidity of the vaginal area changes which makes it prone to contracting urinary tract infections often. The vulva and vagina lose their fullness and vaginal dryness may make sexual intercourse a painful experience. Vaginal bleeding may also happen in some cases.
Topical application of vaginal creams, Kegel exercises or other medication may take care of vaginal atrophy.
When your estrogen levels dip after menopause, your bladder which holds the urine loses control and urethra that carries urine out of your body becomes weak.
You may experience urinary incontinence or inability to hold back urine, frequent urination which may make up rush to the washroom several times at night.
Laughing hard, coughing or any sudden movement may cause leakage of urine. The tendency to get urinary tract infections increases. Such urinary problems are known as urogenital atrophy. Hormone replacement therapy helps treat this condition.
It is very common to gain weight during menopause and in pre menopause period. Even after menopause, the metabolic rate slows down which may lead to gaining extra pounds.
Proper diet and exercise regimen becomes very essential to control unhealthy weight gain that may lead to other complications like high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Due to low level of estrogen hormone, the skin loses its elasticity. Collagen which supports skin structure breaks down, that leads to wrinkling of skin. Appearance of fine lines and crow’s feet makes your skin look old.
Proper diet and hormone replacement therapy will ensure a healthy and wrinkle free skin.
As the female hormones estrogen spiral down after menopause, the level of male sex hormone testosterone becomes higher in comparison, despite no increase in it.
This causes your sebaceous glands to become overactive. This leads to excess production of sebum which clogs your skin pores. Clogging of pores make pimples and acne to appear on your skin.
Emotional changes and depression:
Hormonal changes just prior, during and after menopause period affect your neurotransmitters in the brain. It may be visible in symptoms like frequent irritability, anxiety, mood swings, very less sleep or excessive sleep.
Depression often strikes in the pre menopause and post menopause stage. Look out for the following symptoms to recognize it:
- Feeling of sadness and low energy level
- Difficulty in concentrating and feeling hopeless
- Lack of enjoyment from favourite activities
- Social withdrawal and frequent crying
- Change in appetite causing weight loss or weight gain
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Thinking about death and attempting suicide
Dietary supplements, deep breathing exercises, meditation help a great deal in dealing with menopausal depression. Having a strong and loving support of family members and friends also help alleviate emotional changes due to menopause.
In the immediate years after menopause, your bone density goes down speedily. This increases your risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes you susceptible to fracturing your bones especially hips, backbone, wrist etc.
Sufficient intake of calcium is very crucial in preventing such a condition.
Irregular vaginal bleeding:
Any kind of vaginal bleeding after the cessation of menstrual cycle is nor normal. Even sporadic spotting should be viewed as abnormal after menopause happens.
However, various reasons may cause vaginal bleeding in post menopause period. They are as follows:
- Endometrial hyperplasia:
Due to variation in estrogen levels in your body due to menopause, the uterine lining may get thickened. It leads to vaginal bleeding months after your menopause begins.
- Endometrial cancer:
In ten percent of cases, the thickening of uterus lining may happen due to uterine or endometrial cancer. This may lead to vaginal bleeding. So, seek medical help in case of any bleeding post your menopause.
- Endometrial Atrophy:
It implies that the lining of your uterus gets thin due to low amount of estrogen hormone in your body. This may cause vaginal bleeding suddenly.
Polyps are non cancerous growths in your uterus and cervix areas. They may also cause vaginal bleeding.
Seek immediate medical help when bleeding happens to rule out the risk of uterine cancer.
Risk of heart disease:
After menopause the level of estrogen hormone decreases in the body. This enhances your risk of developing heart diseases. Keep a tab on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels especially after menopause to keep your heart health in a good shape.
Your body changes irreversibly after menopause. It affects you mentally, emotionally and physically as a woman. Family is a great supporting factor at this delicate phase of your life. Seek medical help and alternative therapies like meditation to deal with this hormonal upheaval. Enjoy the second innings of your life with great wellness!