A Complete Guide to Menopause: An Astonishing Biological Experience

Menopause, or the end of the menstrual cycle can be a renewed zest for life for women. But the concept of what it is and why it happens is unclear to a lot of people.

Image Credit : Language of Menopause

Menopause is one of the most prominent biological transitions that women in their 40s or 50s endure. Most women dread menopause for several of its negative impacts on their bodies, but it certainly is not all bad. There is a preconceived notion about what menopause is and what happens to women when they hit it, much of it useless and not backed by science. This is why most women are afraid of hitting menopause due to half to no knowledge. So let’s talk about the big thing here and since we all have to be that age now or later, let’s prepare ourselves.

What is menopause?

Menopause is the biological transition of women which marks the end of your menstrual cycles. This term is also used to describe the changes your body goes through before or after you stop having periods, marking the end of your reproductive years. Some women hit menopause in their 40s and some in their 50s.

What causes menopause?

Women’s reproduction works differently than men’s as they are born with eggs which are stored in their ovaries. These ovaries do not only store your eggs for you but also produce hormones for your body to function properly. Estrogen and progesterone are the two hormones that ovaries produce that control the period or menstrual cycles while controlling the release of eggs during ovulation. To put it simply, menopause occurs when your ovaries stop releasing an egg every month and put an end to your period.

Menopause is a regular part of aging, a biological transition women go through in their 40s. But in some cases, women before the age of 40 can hit menopause. There are a lot of reasons why these happen to some women around us. One big reason is a result of a surgery like a hysterectomy where the ovaries are removed from the body surgically. It could be a result of damaged ovaries from something like chemotherapy. When it happens before you hit the age of 40 years, it is called premature menopause.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause just does not happen to you one day when you turn 40. There are some signs and symptoms your body will show before this happens to you. Let’s discuss that.

The first signs:

Most women nearing menopause begin to experience vasomotor symptoms (VMS). These are the first signs that your body shows when you hit the right age. The most common one is hot flashes where there is a feeling of warmth that spreads over the upper body out of nowhere. When you experience hot flashes it often comes with a racing heart, blushing, and a lot of sweating. These flashes can range from mild to severe in most women. At the same time, you might also experience some of these symptoms –

  • Missed or uneven period
  • Sore breasts
  • Vaginal dryness
  • More urges to pee
  • Emotional changes
  • Dry mouth, eye, or skin
  • Sleep troubles

Some other symptoms of menopause include –

  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle and joint pain and aches
  • Changes in libido (the urge to have sex)
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Crankiness
  • Headaches

What happens during natural menopause?

Natural menopause in women does not happen as a result of any medical treatment or surgery. It is comparatively slow and happens in three stages.

  • Stage 1: Perimenopause – This stage happens to women usually several years before actually hitting menopause. In this stage, the ovaries slowly start to make less estrogen and last till you hit menopause. In the last 1-2 years of this stage, the estrogen level in the body drops faster than ever. Many women in this stage of perimenopause experience menopause symptoms as well.
  • Stage 2: Menopause Women usually hit the stage of menopause after a full year of having no period. This is when the ovaries stop releasing eggs, making the most of the estrogen production present in the body.
  • Stage 3: PostmenopauseThis indicates the years after menopause. This is when several Menopausal VMS such as hot flashes are at ease. However, the health risks due to the loss of estrogen remain in the body.

Why does premature menopause happen?

There are several reasons why women go through premature menopause such as immune system disorders, genetics, or some medical or surgical procedures. Some other reasons are –

Premature ovarian failure – This is also known as primary ovarian insufficiency which happens when ovaries for unknown reasons prematurely stop releasing eggs. Due to this, the level of estrogen and progesterone in your body changes as well. When this happens to your body before you are 40 years old, then it is called premature ovarian failure and can cause premature menopause. However, unlike premature menopause, premature ovarian failure is not permanent.

Induced menopause – This happens when your ovaries are surgically removed from your body. This happens due to a lot of health problems such as endometriosis, or uterine cancer. It can also happen when chemotherapy or radiation damages your ovaries.

What DOES NOT cause premature menopause?

Just like there are several causes behind premature menopause, there are also some misconceptions that people think might have caused it. But in reality, they are not true and there is no scientific evidence linking these with premature menopause. So let’s see what absolutely does not cause premature menopause.

Ethnicity – Many people believe that women of certain races and ethnicities experience premature menopause. However, a study of premenopausal and early perimenopausal women found and published that ethnicity and race play no role in premature menopause. The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) reviewed several women from different races and found that all of the women experienced menopause around the same age.

Hormonal birth control – Many treatments for women require them to take hormonal birth control. Even if you are among one and think this can lead you to premature menopause, then you are wrong. Birth control only stops ovulation, it has no power to stop the loss of follicles which is the constant process of your ovaries taking from your rested pool of eggs. All of the follicles are still available that month, even if you are not ovulating. So experts say taking birth control does not cause premature menopause, or delay it.

Menopause is different for each woman but usually the symptoms of perimenopause last about 4 years.

How does the diagnosis of menopause happen?

As menopause comes with several unusual symptoms, most women know when they are experiencing it. But to be sure, the doctor does some tests to confirm. The first symptom that you will experience is an uneven period so better to keep track of your period every month. The doctor might do these blood tests to be sure –

  • Estradiol – The result will tell the doctor how much your body or your ovaries to be exact are making estrogen. The level will go down once you enter your perimenopause era.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – This test result will go up as you get closer to entering menopause.
  • Thyroid hormones – This test will show whether you have any problem in your thyroid gland that can cause problems with your period and mimic the symptoms of menopause.

What are the treatments for menopause?

As menopause is a natural cause of a woman’s life, the symptoms or problems will go on their own over time. But, if the problems become too big, there are treatments you can go through to ease them out.

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – This is also known as menopausal hormone therapy where you take medications to help your body replace the hormones it cannot make any more. Certain combinations and drugs can help you with hot flashes and vaginal problems. These can also help you make your bones stronger. However, these medications often put you at a higher health risk such as developing breast cancer, or heart disease. So while taking them go for the lowest dose that works for the shortest time possible.
  • Nonhormone medications – There are medications you can take to treat hot flashes as well. This is the depression drug paroxetine (Brisdelle, Paxil) which is FDA-approved to treat hot flashes. There is also the nerve drug gabapentin (Gralise,Neuraptine, and Neurontin) along with the blood pressure drug clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay) which might also ease them. Another medicine called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) helps the body use its own estrogen to treat vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
  • Tropical hormone therapy – This is usually an estrogen cream, gel, or insert that you can put in your vagina to treat its dryness.
  • Medications for osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is a bone disease where the bone mass decreases. It is very common with women with menopause so to treat that and make your bones stronger, you can use medication or take vitamin D supplements.

What are the lifestyle changes you need to adopt during menopause?

As mentioned before, menopause is a natural course of your body that sooner or later you have to face. As the symptoms will be there, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to make things easier. These are –

  • If you are experiencing a vasomotor symptom like hot flashes, dress in layers, sit or sleep near a fan, and drink cold water.
  • Exercise regularly and incorporate regular body movement in your daily routine if you want to sleep better and prevent conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
  • For vaginal dryness, use a lubricant or an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer.
  • Stay mentally and socially active to prevent memory problems.
  • Avoid smoking as it can cause early menopause and increase the hot flashes you experience.
  • Do Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles and prevent bladder leaks.
  • Practice yoga, massage, or deep breathing when you feel restless. These will calm you down.
  • Eat a variety of food and maintain a healthy diet to maintain your weight to help with the hot flushes.

A healthy menopause diet –

Research suggests what you eat will impact your menopause and its symptoms. After thorough research, the study finds that menopause tends to start earlier for women whose diets include heavily refined carbs. Whereas menopause comes late for women whose diets include heavy amounts of legumes and fish. According to a study author YashveeDunneram, when women have higher consumption of oily fish, their menopause is delayed by approximately 3 years. For women who tend to eat higher amounts of fresh legumes such as green beans and peas, their natural menopause came a year later. On the other hand, when women tend to consume heavy amounts of refined carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice, it hastens menopause by 1.5 years. It was further said that refined carbs are connected to insulin resistance. A high level of circulating insulin could boost estrogen levels, and interfere with sex hormone activity. Both of these might increase the number of menstrual cycles, depleting the egg supply faster and causing earlier menopause.

However, more research is needed when it comes to connecting diet with early menopause.

What are some of the complications of menopause?

Menopause comes with a lot of complications as well. It is not only the symptoms that go away in 3-4 months, some of these complicated conditions stay with them for life. These are –

  • Osteoporosis – a bone disease where bone mineral density and bone mass decrease.
  • Heart disease
  • Higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Less elasticity in the skin causes wrinkles.
  • Changes in bladder and bowel movements
  • Poor muscle power
  • Vision problems such as weaker vision. Sometimes women after menopause from cataracts which refers to the clouding around the lens. Some women also develop macular degeneration which is a breakdown of the tiny spot at the center of the retina. This causes weaker vision as the retina is also the center of the vision.

What are the benefits of menopause that often get overlooked?

  • Most girls get their first period around the age of 12 and continue to get them every month until they hit menopause. So menopause means their period stops. So no more buying pads or tampons, staying uncomfortable for a good 5-7 days, no unexpected bleeding or spotting.
  • As menopause means the end of menstrual cycles for women, they also get relief from the hormonal changes they used to face every month before. Around 85% get period cramps, and around 90% of women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) including bloating, headaches, and mood swings. So menopause puts a stop to that as well.
  • Since you hit menopause, the body automatically stops ovulating. So there is no risk of pregnancy.
  • The decline in body hormones does not only stop your period, low levels of estrogen and progesterone also stop your hair growth. While it might concern you now for your hair on the head, look for the days when you don’t need to worry about body hair removal.
  • Menopause can also bring a new, refreshing look to life. As you get to the stage of menopause, your life will become less stressful, leaving you with more time to focus on yourself.

No matter what age you get your menopause in, it does not necessarily mean a bad thing. However, if you feel any concerning symptoms, don’t shy away from seeking help from medical [professionals.

Jerry Simmons

I am Jerry Simmons and I focus on breaking news stories and ensuring we (“Digital Wall”) offer timely reporting on some of the most recent stories released through market wires about “Financial” sector. I have formerly spent over 3 years as a trader in U.S. Stock Market and is now semi-stepped down. I work on a full time basis for Digital Wall specializing in quicker moving active shares with a short term view on investment opportunities and trends. <strong>Address:</strong> 4042 Braxton Street, Sterling, IL 61081, USA <strong>Phone:</strong> (+1) 815-535-4324 <strong>Email: </strong>[email protected]

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