What is the Menopause?
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she stops having monthly periods.
The ovaries stop producing eggs and the hormone “estrogen” is no longer secreted. The average age of menopause in developed countries is around 51, with many women beginning to have symptoms from mid- to late 40s. Women may become menopausal early due to natural causes or as a consequence of medical treatment or surgery. Smokers seem to have an earlier menopause compared to non-smokers.
What causes the Menopause?
Menopausal symptoms are a direct result of estrogen deficiency.
Symptoms usually last between two and five years although they can last longer.
What are the symptoms of the Menopause?
- Irregular periods – usually the first symptom; menstrual pattern changes. Some women may experience a period every two to three weeks, while others have none for months at a time.
- Reduced fertility – lowered chance of getting pregnant due to reduced estrogen level.
- Vaginal dryness/painful sex –results from the thinning and shrinking of the tissues, as well as decreased lubrication due to lack of estrogen.
- Hot flushes – sudden feeling of heat in the upper body which may start in the face, neck or chest, and then spread upwards or downwards. The skin on the face, neck or chest may redden and become patchy, and typically profuse sweating results. The heart rate may suddenly increase, or it may become irregular or stronger than usual.
- Night sweats – hot flushes that occur in bed they are called night sweats.
- Disturbed sleep – sleep problems are mainly caused by night sweats but may be caused by insomnia or anxiety
- Urinary problems – women tend to be more susceptible to urinary tract infections and may need to pass urine more frequently.
- Mood swings – occurs hand-in-hand with sleep disturbance.
- Problems focusing and learning – Some women may also have short-term memory problems, as well as finding it hard to concentrate.
- More fat building up in the abdomen (tummy area).
- Hair loss (thinning hair).
- Loss of breast size
- Osteoporosis –(bone loss)
Can I do anything to relieve menopausal symptoms?
Hot flushes & night sweats-
Dress in layers so you can take off clothes if you get hot.
Keep the thermostat down and avoid hot drinks, such as coffee or tea.
Put a cold, wet washcloth against your neck during hot flushes
Quit smoking, if you smoke. (Smoking makes hot flushes worse.)
Use lubricants before sex.
Use a vaginal moisturizer such as Replens
Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, even when you don’t sleep well. (Taking naps can make the problem worse.)
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and don’t drink much alcohol.
What can I do to protect my bones?
Take calcium and vitamin D supplements
Be active (exercise helps keep bones strong)
What treatment options are available?
Hormone replacement therapy-HRT
The most common reason for taking HRT is to treat bothersome symptoms such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. HRT is safe for healthy women but should be taken for the shortest period of time possible. Short-term use of hormones (less than five years) does not seem to increase the risk of breast cancer.
The hormone estrogen is the most effective treatment for menopause symptoms. Women who take estrogen usually must also take another hormone, called progesterone. If you are suitable, the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy will be with you at your consultation. There are numerous preparations such as patches, vaginal cream, tablets and gels.
Oral progesterone tablets or Intrauterine progestin –Mirena can be helpful in relieving menopausal symptoms and as a protection for the womb lining with estrogen therapy
Antidepressants can ease hot flushes and mood swings.
Other remedies include:
Repadina vaginal ovules –relieves vaginal dryness caused by menopause and is for women who wish to avoid hormonal treatment
Plant-derived estrogens (phytoestrogens)
Plant-derived estrogens have been marketed as a “natural” or “safer” alternative to hormones for women with menopausal symptoms. Phytoestrogens are found in many foods, including soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, flaxseed, lentils, grains, fruits, vegetables, and red clover. Isoflavone supplements, a type of phytoestrogen, can be purchased in health food stores.
Herbal treatments — A number of herbal treatments have been promoted as a “natural” remedy for hot flushes. In fact, many postmenopausal women use black cohosh for hot flushes, but clinical trials have shown that it is not effective and may be harmful.
A detailed assessment of your symptoms and treatment options will be discussed at your consultation
Visit –http://www.womens-health-concern.org/help/factsheets/fs_hrtsummary.html for further information on the menopause