The menopause marks the end of a woman’s fertility, and the conclusion of her menstruation. This is an important point in her life as her periods come to an end; the lack of something that she has lived with for most her adult life may cause some fairly significant physical and emotional outcomes.
However, how a woman’s periods do not stop overnight gives her time to adjust as her menstrual cycle gets less regular and eventually stops completely. Most women go through the menopause at the age of about 52. After a year without a period, a woman is thought to be postmenopausal.
Some women, however, experience the menopause much earlier: when a woman goes through the menopause until she reaches 45 years old she’s thought to have experienced a premature menopause. Although we tend to think about the menopause as a defining event, it is not really that clear.
The period prior to the menopause is called the perimenopause, and it is a time period during which the initial phases of hormonal changes can create irregular periods and the first symptoms of menopause such as psychological mood swings. When a woman’s hormones actually start to decrease, she is very likely to experience more extreme mood swings, maybe hot flushes and night sweats, and some change into the lubrication inside her vagina.
Some of the mood swings are hormonally induced, but others are surely the result of coming to terms with the transition from fertility to infertility. Nearly all women will experience several symptoms of the menopause in the perimenopause, and approximately half of those women will find them hard to cope: the most common symptom of this perimenopause is an irregularity of the menstrual cycle and an alteration in the amount of menstrual discharge.
Of course there isn’t any clear division between the perimenopause and the menopause itself, though we traditionally think about the perimenopause for a period leading up to the menopause: in actuality, the signs are very much the same, including night sweats, hot flashes, irregular menstrual cycles, and mood swings.
It’s a matter of degree, in that the signs may be more extreme and pronounced through the menopause itself. Sleep disturbance is another frequent side-effect of the menopause, and it is here that a holistic approach using both traditional medicine and alternative medicine can help a woman come to terms with both the physical and psychological symptoms that she’s experiencing.
In addition, it is essential that a woman deals efficiently with changes to lubrication inside her vagina, because this may impact directly on her connection. Without therapy, the lack of lubrication can lead to pain and difficulty during sexual intercourse, in addition to resulting in atrophy of the vaginal lining. Happily, localised treatment with oestrogen pellets almost always reverses these changes and makes sex pleasurable and enjoyable once more.
Additionally, it is possible that a woman may become more susceptible to urinary tract infections like cystitis during the perimenopause and menopause, which once again emphasises the importance of a holistic approach to healthcare in this period of life. It turns out that only about 10 percent of women actually seek medical aid as they go through the menopause – in part, that is because many do not require any treatment, but it’s also apparent that there are lots of women who may be helped with symptoms which are really bad enough to interfere with their everyday life.
These include hormone replacement therapy, vaginal lubricants, antidepressants, and drugs called tibolone and clonidine. Incidentally, any woman who doesn’t want to become pregnant should continue to use contraception for at least a year following her final period.
Hormone replacement therapy is an effective remedy for the most frequent symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flushes, vaginal problems and cystitis. Hormone replacement therapy replaces oestrogen and possibly progesterone, and may be obtained as either a cream or gel, an implant, a skin patch, or a pill. While there have been some false alarms about the safety of hormone replacement therapy, close analysis of these reports indicates that many of them are based on false information. Indeed, hormone replacement therapy is perfectly secure for women when administered, as it now is, in much lower doses than previously. Furthermore, if it is only about substituting lubrication, and preventing atrophy of the cells in the vagina, then there are loads of localised treatments that are possible.
Artificial hormones called tibolone and clonidine may also be prescribed for women in certain conditions. Thinking ahead, it is important for girls to realise that hormone replacement therapy is not just about convenience today — it is also about preventing osteoporosis and maintaining quality of life in later years.
With effective treatment, including localised HRT and the vagina, there is essentially no reason women’s lifestyle should change just because the menopause.
Antidepressants can be helpful during the menopause to reduce mood swings and irritability, although lots of folks believe that a holistic approach using therapies like acupuncture, reflexology, and careful nutrition can be just as successful.