Menopause and Associated Difficulties
The Common Symptoms of Menopause
The menopause or the change of life is the time when the amount of oestrogen produced by the ovaries starts to fall. It’s not an illness but a natural stage in a woman’s life. As the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone begin to fluctuate, you may well experience symptoms that are a warning that ovulation is near its end.
In the UK, the average age of the menopause is 52, although 1 percent of women will go through it before the age of 40. Smokers are more likely to experience an early menopause.
What to expect during your menopause
Your periods may become irregular or less frequent before stopping altogether. Many women do not experience any adverse side effects but according to figures from the NHS, up to 80% suffer from hot flushes. These may involve symptoms, such as the following:
1. A sudden feeling of heat spreading across the body-The face and chest may become red
2. The face and chest may become red
3. Heart palpitations
4. Feelings of panic and anxiety when hot flushes happen at night, they can be very disruptive to your sleep and rest is very important during this time
However, you can help yourself to stay cool by trying the following:
• Identify and avoid any obvious triggers such as caffeine, spicy food and alcohol
• Layer your clothes and bed linen so that you can cool down easily consider fibres such as bamboo that are more breathable
• Eat healthily and take plenty of exercises
You might want to consider other lifestyle changes that can help alleviate the symptoms of menopause such as trying to sleep for 7-8 hours each night. Some other things that may help are:
• Yoga and Pilates – disciplines involving breathing exercises can be highly beneficial as a way of alleviating stress, depression and overall well-being.
• Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet that is full of whole foods.Take supplements of vitamins B, C, D, and especially E. Tip: A daily tablespoon of linseed that has been soaked in water overnight is a good and inexpensive way of increasing your intake of vitamin E, which is very good for your skin and hair.
Problems associated with menopause and early menopause
Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 58; the average age in the UK is 51. However, it can occur much earlier because of premature ovarian failure (POF). Research published in the BMJ shows that women who experience premature menopause are at 25% higher risk of cardiovascular death and 50% more likely to suffer coronary heart disease so most doctors recommend hormone replacement therapy(HRT) to reduce this danger. New studies from the US show that falling oestrogen levels may impact on the progress of MS, highlighting the benefit of HRT for menopausal MS patients.
The years running up to the menopause are known as the perimenopause, which most often occurs during a woman’s 40’s but may happen as early as the 30’s. Many women notice a change in their periods during this time while the length of the perimenopause to the final period varies enormously among women; the timescale can be anything from two to ten years, although the average is four in the UK.Many women struggle to conceive during this time, which can be very stressful if you want children and are childless. Even if you don’t want children, the perimenopause is often a transitional time of heightened and conflicting emotions.
It may still be possible for you to become pregnant so it’s important to continue to use contraception; your doctor may also suggest a low dose oral contraceptive to relieve some of the symptoms, which can include:
• Breast tenderness
• Irregular periods
• Loss of libido
• A change in the heaviness of your monthly flow – some women experience periods that are much heavier than before.
• Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex – the walls of the vagina often thin after the menopause – this can lead to a condition known as vaginal atrophy. HRT is also an effective treatment for this condition, along with lubrication.
When to seek medical help
While perimenopause and menopause are natural life stages, you should consult your doctor if you have any concerns such as:
• Very heavy periods or blood clots
• Periods that last longer than usual
• Spotting between periods or after sex
• Periods occurring closer together-some women may experience bleeding after their last period.
If you notice any blood loss more than twelve months after your last period, you should consult your doctor. It’s usually nothing to worry about, but it can be an indication of certain cancers, such as cancer of the uterus so your doctor will want to exclude the possibility.The standard medical advice is that it’s safe to stop taking contraception one year after your last period if you are over 50 and to wait two years after your last period if you are under 50.However, theses are general guidelines and if you are in any doubt, you should consult your doctor.
Sources: NHS, MS Society, British Medical Journal.Bupa.co.uk
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