The best way to prepare for menopause is to know what to expect!
Though inevitable, changes are very challenging. Though some changes are pleasant, there is always some uneasiness associated with them. Talking about changes, the most difficult ones are those that are irreversible, that announce that life is not going to be the same, again.
One such change comes with age. So, when a little girl enters womanhood, it is a very difficult time for her. She finds it difficult to deal with the way her body is changing and how her mind is harboring so many contradictory thoughts, at the same time. Some suffer with painful menses and feel extremely cranky. In some cases, many teenagers even become emotional wrecks. However, all of that passes with time. Teenagers learn to accommodate their menstrual cycle in the life which goes on, like before, almost.
Another such change comes when a woman crosses 40. And this change is not an easy one to accommodate. This is when a woman’s body declares that it is slowly distancing itself from youth.
What is Menopause?
Menopause means a lowered production of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Since Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle, it affects more than just the reproductive system. It affects almost every system in a woman’s body – from urinary tract, heart and blood vessels, to bone density, breasts, skin and hair, not to mention the mind.
Menopause is probably the toughest change in a woman’s life. It is far from easy for a woman to be eased into it. It takes a lot of acceptance, which comes only with time. There is nothing that can be done to reverse the changes that menopause brings. However, what a woman can definitely do is be prepared for them, for the changes brought on by menopause. She needs to tell herself that menopause is not a dreadful disease; just something that nature has planned for her, after a certain time.
Although menopause sets in some time when a woman is 40 – 45, it varies, depending upon many factors- overall health, lifestyle etc. Therefore, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of menopause. Many a time, women get worried about certain symptoms, which indicate menopause but could very well be indications of other fatal diseases. Therefore, it very important to know what marks the onset of this very tricky phase called menopause in a woman’s life.
It might seem untrue but many women are lucky to have a complication-free menopause. It is a very smooth phase for them, without any drastic changes in the bodies or mind set. For some, it could be very taxing and makes their lives tumultuous.
What are the Symptoms of Menopause
Let’s go through some classic menopause symptoms so that we know what to expect and how to deal with it.
1. Changes in Menstrual Cycle- First Symptom of Menopause
Menopause begins with changes in Menstrual Cycle
This is the first indication that your body gives you. Your period starts surprising you. Here are some classic ways in which your menstrual cycle begins changing.
How menstrual cycle is affected by menopause
- You start to have irregular periods
- You start missing your periods
- You notice you are spotting
- Your menstrual period lasts longer than it normally would
- Your period finishes even before the normal time
- Your menstrual flow is heavier or lighter than before
When a period is missing, sexually active women must not rule out getting a pregnancy test. That could be a possibility too. If you are not pregnant, then a missing period could be an indication of menopause.
Also, if you notice that you have been spotting after missing your period for 12 months consecutively, then an appointment with your gynecologist is a must. It could be an indication of cancer and not to be taken lightly.
2. Hot Flashes- Another Common Symptom of Menopause
This one bothers many women when they are nearing 40s. Hot flashes could either affect the upper portion of the body or all of it. It is like a wave of heat that travels through the affected area. It shows on the face, too, which goes red, perspiration increases and the sufferer becomes restless.
There are different kinds of hot flashes. Some last for a very short duration – some times just 30 seconds. Some could last for as long as 10 minutes. Studies have shown that many women experience hot flashes for a year or two after they have their last menses. These vary too. Some might experience hot flashes for over three years.
Sometimes night sweats also accompany hot flashes. It typically wakes you up in the middle of night and you may find your bedclothes and bedding wet with sweat even if your bedroom temperature is cool.
It has been noticed that almost all menopausal women suffer from hot flashes. In extreme cases, some women choose to seek treatment and take medicines to control their condition. There are chances that some of these medicines might have side-effects and it is best to discuss your health with your doctor in detail.
Don’t forget to tell your doctor if you:
- Suffer from diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Are on other medication
- Have had a family history of any lethal disease, like cancer
3. Vaginal Dryness can be a Sign of Menopause
What happens with the lowered production of estrogen and progesterone is that the thin layer of moisture that lines the vaginal walls begins to deplete. Though many doctors say that a woman can experience vaginal dryness at any stage in her life. However, if it happens between 40 to 45 years, then it can probably be attributed to menopause.
Problems that come with vaginal dryness
- It can cause itching and burning sensation around vagina and vulva
- It can also lead to painful sex
- Extreme dryness also causes light bleeding
- It could also lead to frequent urination
Women who are experiencing vaginal dryness, could consult their doctor and start medication. In most cases, using a water-based vaginal moisturizer helps.
4. Sleeplessness may also be a Symptom of Menopause
Trouble falling asleep? Blame it on Menopause.
It is a well-known fact that on an average, one must sleep from 7-8 hours. However, when menopause sets in, women might find it difficult to fall asleep. They might experience uneasiness in their sleep and get up a lot of times at night and have trouble going back to sleep again.
What to do when you can’t sleep?
There are a couple of self-help techniques that women can try when they have trouble sleeping:
- Try relaxing and deep breathing
- Take up some or the other form of exercise
- Try yoga for at least 30 minutes
- Meditation also helps
- Read something that relaxes your mind
- Listen to music that soothes your mind
- Try to divert your mind to positivity
- Rest whenever you can without worrying about the sleep you are not getting
- Soak your feet in lukewarm water before hitting the bed
- Sip chamomile tea half an hour before bedtime. It is known to have a relaxing effect.
It is said that what is worse than not getting any sleep is worrying about it. It could prove to be very stressful and could lead to other health issues like high blood pressure.
Though there are times when a woman might have to pop a sleeping pill, it is advisable to see a doctor before doing so. It is best to stick with natural options and avoid medication, as much as possible. It is important to remember that it is just a phase and will pass, soon.
5. Frequent Urination could be a Sign of Menopause
The onset of menopause also leads to frequent urination. Many women experience loss of control over their bladders as urethra loses elasticity and vaginal lining depletes. In addition, the pelvic muscles might also weaken which could lead to the following:
- Women might feel the need to urinate, more frequently.
- They might feel their bladder is bloated or full.
- Some times, they might even experience painful urination.
It is important to increase consumption of water and avoid hard liquor, even coffee. There are many exercises that help strengthen pelvic and urethra muscles. However, if the situation is too difficult to handle, you can always consult a doctor and start medication.
6. Frequent Urinary Tract Infections may be a Symptom of Menopause
Many women complain of urinary tract infections (UTIs) during menopause. It happens because of lowered levels of estrogen, which also cause changes in the urinary tract, thus leading to infections.
Go to a doctor if:
- You feel a frequent urge to urinate
- You experience a burning sensation while urinating
- If you are bleeding when urinating
Most of the times, a doctor carries out urine tests and depending upon the results, prescribes anti-biotic or other drugs.
7. Depression and Mood Swings are Sure Shot Signs of Menopause
It is natural for a woman to experience depression due to the hormonal turmoil that is happening in her body.
Classic menopausal symptoms are:
- Increased irritability
- Depression, and mood swings
- The need to be alone
- Heightened emotions
Normally, doctors don’t prescribe medicine for mood swings, though in extreme cases, they just might!
It is important to remember that these mood swings are a part of transition and will pass with time. Meanwhile, a woman can always try meditation and good music to keep herself calm as her body accepts the drastic changes that come with menopause!
8. Menopause also affects Skin and Hair
With menopause, fatty tissues become less in number and collagen reduces considerably. This affects the texture of the skin, the hair, vagina and urinary tract. Many women complain about their hair going brittle. Some even experience hair loss, owing to the reduced production of estrogen.
These are small changes that can be tackled through these small ways:
- Drink a lot of water to hydrate your body for a smooth skin
- Moisturize your body with almond oil before sleeping
- Apply olive oil to your hair everyday. Go for a hair spa.
- Drink cranberry juice, which is considered good for the health of the urinary tract.
9. Loss of Libido is a Major Symptom of Menopause
Around your menopausal age, if you start losing interest in sex, know that it is caused by physical changes due to reduced estrogen. The decreased levels of this female hormone leads to such changes as delayed clitoral reaction time, slow or no orgasm, and vaginal dryness. In fact, vaginal dryness and irritation can also be the cause of loss of libido.
10. Heart Palpitation is a Common Symptom of Menopause
Heart palpitations, irregular heart beat or a sudden speeding-up of heart rate are very common symptoms of menopause. However, the intensity of heart palpitations vary from woman to woman. In fact, they are more common when women go through perimenopause- the period of four years that precedes menopause. In this period, the hormones fluctuate the most, especially epinephrine and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating heart rate and blood pressure. They also fluctuate in menopausal women along with estrogen and other female hormones.
Some lifestyle changes though can give relief from such palpitations.
- If you also experience hot flashes, consider wearing layered clothing that may also address the problem of palpitation.
- Avoid caffeine, spicy food, as well as red wine.
- Practice yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, or such other relaxation techniques.
Yoga and other exercises will also benefit you in losing weight as weight gain is also a major challenge faced by women after menopause. If you too face the problem of weight gain, you must give efforts to lose weight after menopause as excessive fat, especially around your abdomen, promotes the risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, if palpitation is there, consulting a doctor is essential as other conditions such as heart disease, overactive thyroid, and anemia might be the cause of heart palpitations instead of it being the symptom of menopause.
Is there any Positive Sign of Menopause?
Menopause can be a trying time only when you don’t know what to expect and when you can’t accept the changing times. It is the inevitable truth of a woman’s life. Just remember what Steven C. Goldberg has said, “Menopause is a fact of life and it can mark the beginning of an exciting new time chapter in a woman’s life!”