The Basics of Menopause and Its Symptoms
- Menopause signifies the end of a woman's reproductive period.
- Most women reach menopause in their late 40’s to early 50’s.
- An irregular period is usually the first symptom of menopause.
- A sudden feeling of heat in the upper body is also experienced.
On one cold, frigid December night, Ameena woke up in a blistering sweat. She felt like something internal had suddenly jacked up her body temperature. She knew it had arrived- her first hot flash. She had read about menopausal transition for six months because she wanted to be ready for it. As they say, her journey towards wisdom and maturity of elder hood had started.
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life marked by an end to her menstruation and fertility. Menopause puts an end to a woman’s reproductive period and all women experience it as they age. It can happen in your 40s or 50s and it occurs 12 months after your last menstrual period. In some cases, menopause can occur as early as 30s or as late as the 60s.
Some may think that menopause occurs overnight, but it does not. Rather, it is a gradual process. Every woman experiences a different "so-called perimenopausal transition". Perimenopause, or the menopausal transition, is the time leading up to a woman's last period. Periods can stop and then start again, so you are in perimenopause until a year has passed since you've had a period.
Symptoms of Menopause and Perimenopause
The menopause is technically confirmed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for a year. However, some signs and symptoms appear well before that one-year period is over.
Irregular Periods- Usually the first symptom of menopause is irregular periods. The menstrual pattern changes- some women may get their periods every two to three weeks, while others may not have one for months at a time.
Low Fertility- The peri-menopausal stage causes the estrogen levels to drop significantly, lowering the woman’s chances of conceiving.
Vaginal Dryness- Dry, itchy, uncomfortable vagina is another symptom of menopause. Some women may also experience pain during sex. It happens because the lack of estrogen causes the tissues to thin and shrink, and decrease lubrication, hence inflaming the vagina. This condition is known as vaginal atrophy. Approximately 30% of women experience vaginal atrophy symptoms during the early post-menopausal period, while 47% do so during the later post-menopausal period.
Hot Flushes- A sudden feeling of heat starting in the face, neck or chest is defines as hot flushes during menopause. This heat may cause the affected area to redden and become patchy, and you may start to sweat. This may cause your heart rate to suddenly increase, or it may become irregular or stronger than usual.
Night Sweats- When the hot flushes occur in bed, they are called night sweats. Most women experience these flushes for not more than a few minutes.
Disturbed Sleep- Night sweats may cause disturbance in sleeping, but not always. Sleep disturbance may have other causes like- insomnia or anxiety. Women who are going through menopause may find it difficult to fall and staying asleep.
Urinary Problems- Women experiencing menopause may find themselves urging to urinate more frequently. They are more susceptible to urinary tract infections like cystitis.
Mood Swings- Experts believe mood swings are triggered by poor sleep and they often go hand-in-hand with sleep disturbances.
Focussing Problems- Menopause may challenge women’s short-term memory, making it difficult for them to concentrate on something for long.
Other Symptoms- Some other signs and symptoms may be felt during menopause such as- more fat building up in the abdomen, hair loss, and loss in breast size.
These symptoms that accompany menopause may sound challenging, but you can feel better with a few lifestyle changes. Don’t hesitate to seek treatment for symptoms that bother you. Along with lifestyle adjustments, effective hormone therapies are also available.
Read more articles on Menopause.
Source: Onlymyhealth editorial team Feb 10, 2014
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