The life of a woman is similar to the cycle of seasons, controlled by the ebb and flow of hormones in her body. They alter not just her physiology, but her emotions and behavior. Menopause is a watershed. The “Change” or the “Big C” has arrived. It wasn’t till the 19th Century, that scientists found and isolated hormones secreted by the ovaries of women. They learnt that these hormones Estrogen and Progesterone, were controlled by a hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which stimulated ovulation and ovulation, physiologically preparing women for the role of motherhood.
Menopause heralds the end of the reproductive period, although the hypothalamus sends out more of its hormones, to excite the ageing ovaries, it’s like flogging a dead horse. The ovaries respond , and ultimately give up the battle. Menopause is a natural biological event rather than a disease. But because it’s been steeped in myth and superstition, for many women this is a crisis situation.
Menstruation has been tied up with women’s feminity, and is deemed significant for gender identity, sexuality, and one’s own self idea. There’s fear that cessation of periods will make girls less feminine, less adorable, sexually dysfunctional, and that their husbands will consider them “older, de-sexed, faulty and unworthy.” They fear that as a result, marital relationships will flounder.
It’s therefore important that women familiarize themselves with the performance of their own bodies, and what exactly happens at menopause. Ignorance is always at the core of illogical fears. The aging of the ovaries is a slow and continuous approach. Most individuals are unaware that it begins even in foetal life. The highest number of follicles (oocytes) are within a foetus of five and a half months (5 million).
But at birth, they’ve dropped to 1 million. By age 7 years, only 300,000 follicles stay, and as a woman approaches menopause, only a few hundred could be discovered. From age 30 years, the size of the ovaries too, begins to decrease. The human female is one of those few species, where reproduction ceases, until the end of their natural life span.
In actuality, 1/3rd of a woman’s life goes beyond menopause. Animals retain the capability to replicate, until the end of their lives. This aging of cartilage causes a drop in the secretion of oestrogen and progesterone, which is responsible for the symptoms one experiences, during menopause.
Menopause is the cessation of periods. Provided there isn’t any other pathological cause, stoppage of menses for 12 months, confirms retrospectively, a woman has reached menopause. Climacteric on the other hand, refers to the peri-menopausal period, 4-5 years before and after menopause. It’s a crucial period of transition from yeast into a non-reproductive stage, with decreased fertility, stoppage of menses, and degenerative changes due to oestrogen deficiency.
When Does It Start?
Unlike the time of puberty, the age of menopause hasn’t changed over the centuries. It can happen any time between 45-55 decades, with an average of approximately 51 decades. Premature menopause happens in about 1 percent of women. Surgical menopause follows removal of ovaries during gynaecological surgeries. Menopause can also be triggered through chemotherapy or pelvic irradiation, in treating malignancies.
Various studies have proved that there’s not any connection between age of menopause and socio-economic conditions, race, marital status, or age of the first menstrual period. However, multiparity and obese people are known to have a late menopause, whereas girls who haven’t borne children or suffer from depression, have a premature menopause. Smoking accelerates menopause by 1.5-2 decades. Those with high cognitive abilities in youth, are also thought to have menopause. About 30% of them, live until the ripe old age of 80 years.
Menopause affects all women, and the amounts reaching middle-age are increasing, which means an appreciable growth in the older population. Hence, the management of menopause and its difficulties, has taken on an urgency like never before. There are three ordinary ways periods can stop.
Occurring at infrequent and long intervals before stoppage. Cyclical but scanty bleeding that tapers off. All other methods like heavy bleeding, frequent urination, or spotting are abnormal, and have to be investigated and handled.
Symptoms of menopause are usually due to the interaction of three elements. Reduced menstrual activity, and reduced levels of hormones. Socio-cultural and environmental aspects. Three mains signs attributed to oestrogen deficiency must be treated. About 80 percent of women suffer from hot flushes, at any time during climacteric. A hot flush is a sudden intense feeling of warmth, spreading over body and neck. It might last for 1-3 minutes, and happens several times daily, making the individual self-conscious and uncomfortable. Flushes at night, could be accompanied by profuse night sweats.
However, less than 25 percent of women suffer with acute distress because of excessive and frequent flushes. They rarely persist beyond a year or two. Atrophy of the vaginal mucosa resulting in itching, dryness, pain during sexual activity, and frequent urinary problems are due to oestrogen deficiency.