Menopause is one of the major changes that happens in
every woman’s life.
It begins when the ovaries reduce production of oestrogen and progesterone,
causes biological processes in the body to change.
Medically, menopause is defined as the time after 12 months have
passed since your last period. It is a biological process, not a medical
illness, which involves a process of change - physically, emotionally,
psychosocially, sexually, and even spiritually.
Menopause is not a disease, rather, it is a beginning of another journey towards
self-realization. Many changes occur in a woman’s physical, emotional and
psychological aspects during menopause. Many of these changes often cause stress
and depression among women.
Some women may experience a number of
physical and emotional changes, including hot flashes, sleep
disturbances and night sweats, vaginal changes, irregular
menstruation, decreased libido, insomnia, mood changes, changes
in sexual desire, changes and appearance.
A woman's experiences during menopause may also be influenced by
emotional life changes such as children leaving home, divorce or
widowhood, retirement, changes in domestic, social, and personal
relationships, changes in identity and body image, or anxiety about
loss of independence, disability or loneliness.
Every woman will experience menopause differently. While menopause
usually occurs after the age of 50, it can start anywhere
from the 30’s and for some, not until their 60’s.
The hormonal changes that occur at menopause and the years preceding
it can cause a variety of symptoms, and
Women experience irregular periods due to
the changing hormone levels. This may be first clue that menopause
is close at hand. Periods may stop suddenly, or gradually get
lighter or heavier and then stop.
Prior to menopause, many women experience irregular periods due to the changing hormone levels and decreased frequency of ovulation (egg release). When ovulation begins to
fluctuate, women are less likely to become pregnant and when they do, it is
thought there is a greater chance of foetal abnormality.
The tissues lining the vagina, vulva and urethra
become drier, thinner and less elastic. With decreased lubrication,
women may experience burning, itching and discomfort during sexual
intercourse. There is also an increased risk of infections to the
urinary tract or vagina. One of the more distressing symptoms
is vaginal dryness and they need to use more lube during intercourse.
Women going through menopause may
experience mood swings, irritability and emotional upsets. Aside
from hormonal fluctuations, other factors may also contribute to
these changes, including stress, insomnia, and other life changes.
Hot flashes - hot flushes
About 85% of women experience hot flashes. A hot flash or flush
is a warm or flushed sensation that moves upward from the chest to
the shoulders, neck and head. Skin temperatures rapidly rise, it may
cause facial redness and often causes sweating. Hot flashes usually last from 30
seconds to several minutes or longer.
The difference between a flash and a flush is the the flash is more superficial
and a flush feels like you're being filled up.
Because of hormonal changes, women may notice a
loss of fullness in the breasts, thinning hair and wrinkled and dry
Night sweats and sleep disturbance. Night sweats are often the
result of hot flashes. One may suddenly wake up at the middle of the
night with soaking sweat to be followed by chills. As a result,
sleep deprivation along with its apparent effects is very likely.
Self-care During Menopause
Menopause is not the end of the road for all women.
Here are a number of steps to help reduce or prevent the more
negative effects of menopause.
- Cool those hot flashes/ flushes.
Hot flashes are sudden or mild waves of body heat that rise from the
chest to the face causing facial redness and sweating. Taking some
clothes off and taking a shower can reduce the discomfort.
Some women see hot flushes as power surges and they are able to
transmute some of that energy into productive activity. But it's
important to accept this fact of life and do one's best to
maintain mental and emotional balance.
calcium and other nutrients necessary for calcium absorption. Also
try to have at least one food rich in phytoestrogens which are found
in soy products (soy milk, tofu, miso), legumes, and certain fruits
and vegetables (squash, yams, carrots, papayas). Taking in Vitamin
B-complex and Vitamin E supplements are also helpful. Limit
caffeine-intake found in coffee, tea, alcohol, chocolate, along with
alcohol, sugar and spicy founds.
- Decrease vaginal
Because of certain shifts in hormonal production, women
may experience burning, itching and discomfort during sexual
intercourse. Use over-the-counter water-based vaginal lubricants or
This is also a time to seek deeper intimacy as may be found in
some tantric practices.
- Exercise regularly.
Exercising helps release endorphins which in turn help reduce stress
and promote well-being. Physical activity can relieve hot flashes,
improve sleep, and protect you against cardiovascular disease,
diabetes, osteoporosis, and weight gain. Try a combination of
strength-training exercises and aerobic exercises such as walking,
jogging and dancing.
- Optimize sleep.
caffeinated food and beverages and try to exercise right before
bedtime. Practice a number of relaxation techniques such as deep
breathing or yoga.
- Don’t smoke.
poses a lot of health problems. It increases the risk of heart
disease, stroke, cancer, and a range of other problems. Smoking may
also increase hot flashes and bring on earlier menopause.
- Have regular check-ups.
Always see your doctor and schedule for
mammograms, Pap tests and
other screening tests. Remember prevention is always better than