Menopause FAQs – Answers To The Most Common Questions Related To End of Menstrual Cycle
Most of us will agree with the fact that the physiology of the female reproductive system is a bit complex as compared to men. One of the complexities is the menopausal stage which every woman has to go through her reproductive life cycle. Let’s know through these frequently asked questions about this important transition in a woman’s life.
What is menopause?
Some may think menopause is a disease, but this is completely the opposite side of truth. Menopause is a natural transition that marks the final menstrual period and the end of a woman’s childbearing capability. When a woman does not get periods for 12 months consecutively, it is considered as menopause.
At around what age menopause occurs?
Menopause typically occurs in between 45-55 years of age. In India, average menopause age is 48 years. Menopause can also occur before or after the mentioned age range.
What is perimenopause? Is it different from menopause?
Perimenopause is a phase that precedes the menopause. It occurs typically in the mid-40s or say a few years before the onset of menopause. It is the time period when your symptoms start occurring like change in the hormone levels, irregular periods, etc. So it is the best time for a woman to evaluate her health.
The perimenopausal phase can last from few months to several years. Some women might even skip this phase and enter menopause directly.
Perimenopause and premenopause? Are both these same?
Some people also get confused between perimenopause and premenopause. There is a difference in both of these phases. Premenopause refers to the period that precedes before menstruation but without any symptoms, while in perimenopause, a woman start experiencing the signs and symptoms of menopause.
What changes do women experiences during menopausal phase?
Menopause can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms including weight gain and hot flashes. The changes occur due to reduced functioning of the ovaries which also means reduction in the level of estrogen, progesterone and other hormones.
How do I know I am around menopause?
When it comes to menopause, each woman has a different experience. Some may feel severe symptoms, some may not. If you have entered perimenopausal phase, you will start experiencing:
- Irregular or less frequent menstruation
- Lighter or heavier periods
- Vasomotor symptoms which include night sweats, hot flashes, and flushing
5 Foods To Eat During Menopausal Phase
It is estimated that about 75 percent women experience vasomotor symptoms during menopause. There are other common symptoms mentioned below:
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reduced sex drive (libido)
- Soreness or tenderness in breasts
- Urinary tract infections
- Reduced muscle mass
- Reduced bone mass
- Stiffness or pain in joints
- Breast losing fullness and firmness
- Hair loss or thinning of hair
- Heart palpitation
- Increased urination
- Dry skin and mouth
Are there any complications of menopause?
As mentioned, menopause is not a disease itself, it is a steady transition towards the old age. That means you will be at risk of certain medical conditions. Some of the common complications of menopausal phase include:
- Vaginal atrophy
- Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart diseases and stroke
- Overactive bladder
- Mood swings
- Cataracts (eye disease)
- Periodontal disease (gum disease)
- Reduction in metabolism
What is induced menopause?
In some situations, menopause is induced, means it occurs due to surgical removal of the ovaries or other pelvic structure. The most common causes of induced menopause are:
- Oophorectomy (a surgical procedure where ovaries are removed)
- Ovarian ablation (cessation of ovarian functioning)
- Radiation in the pelvis
- Serious injuries to the pelvis which damages the ovaries
How menopause is diagnosed?
When you are experiencing troublesome symptoms, it becomes important on your part to talk to your healthcare provider. There is no single way to diagnose the condition. You will be asked about your medical history, menstrual information along with symptoms. Your doctor may order following blood tests to confirm menopause:
- FSH – This will check the level of FSH (follicular stimulating hormone), which is a form of estrogen. If FSH levels remain 30 mIU/mL or over, accompanied by lack of menstruation for 1 year, it is considered as menopause. Urine and saliva tests can also be suggested but they are expensive and unreliable.
- Thyroid stimulating hormone – The blood test will evaluate thyroid hormone levels. Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) symptoms are similar to that of menopause.
- Other blood tests – The doctor may also order kidney and liver function tests and tests relating to hCG hormone, testosterone, prolactin, and progesterone.
Are there any treatments available related to menopause?
Menopause doesn’t require any medical treatment. However, the treatments available have two purposes; first to give relief from symptoms and second to manage chronic conditions, if have any. Following treatment may be suggested depending on your case:
- Hormone therapy – The doctor will give you low dose of estrogen in combination with progestin for a short period of time. Long-term use of hormone therapy may have serious risks.
- Vaginal estrogen – This vaginal lubricant is given to women with vaginal dryness. The estrogen can be given in the form of cream, ring or tablet. This medication releases low amount of estrogen that is absorbed by the vagina. It provides relief not only in vaginal dryness, but also in urinary symptom and painful sex.
- Paroxetine – Certain antidepressants such as paroxetine which falls under selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may give relief from hot flashes and depression.
- Gabapentin – The prescribed drug is used to treat seizure and epilepsy but has also been approved to treat hot flashes. This is especially recommended for women who are unable to use estrogen therapy.
- Clonidine – This medication which is normally used for treating high blood pressure, can also provide relief from hot flashes.
Blood Pressure After Menopause - Ways To Keep Yourself Healthy
- Teriparatide and raloxifene are used for treating postmenopausal osteoporosis.
- Prophylactic antibiotics for urinary tract infections
- Topical eflornithine hydrochloride cream for unwanted hair growth
- Topical minoxidil 5 percent, once daily, for treating hair thinning and hair loss
Are there any preventable techniques to reduce the effects of menopausal symptoms?
There are several lifestyle changes and home-based alternative treatment that can prevent the effects of symptoms. Here are some.
- Keep your bedroom cool and use cool and loose layered clothing.
- Get enough sleep.
- If you are a smoker, quit smoking right away.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and breathing.
- Make your pelvic floor muscles strong by exercising regularly. It also prevents chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart diseases.
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Take supplements containing vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium
- Stay sexually active to increase vaginal blood flow
Menopause is the end of the menstrual cycle as well as the capability of bearing child. It’s a natural phenomenon and most women will be facing it by the age of 55. Many symptoms of menopause can continue to impact you upto 4 years, so it is better to keep in touch with your gynecologist and learn about the various options to manage menopause effectively.