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Menopause

  • What is menopause?

    Menopause

    Menopause is not an illness, but the natural end of female fertility. As women age, production of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone in the ovaries slows down, and the ovaries stop producing eggs. Menopause begins when a woman stops having her menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

    Menopause naturally happens between the ages of 45 – 55 years, although it can occur as early as in the 30s, and as late as in the 60s. Women will undergo 3 stages of the menopause process: Perimenopause or menopause transition, menopause, and postmenopause.

    Perimenopause

    Eight to 10 years prior menopause, women in their 40s begin to experience perimenopause when their ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen. The decrease in oestrogen speeds up during the last 2 years of perimenopause. At this point, many women start to experience menopause symptoms. However, they continue to have menstrual cycles and can still get pregnant.

    Menopause

    When a woman no longer has menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months, she enters the menopause stage. At this stage, women experience menopause symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal changes, sleeping difficulties, and dry skin.

    Postmenopause

    During this stage, menopausal symptoms begin to ease for most women. However, some may continue to experience symptoms of menopause for more than a decade. Due to a lower level of oestrogen, women at this stage are prone to health conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis.

  • Menopause naturally happens between the ages of 45 – 55 years, although it can occur as early as in the 30s, and as late as in the 60s.

  • Menopause is different for every woman. You may find life more overwhelming than normal, and may not understand why. Your mood might change often, from sadness and low self-esteem to irritability and frustration. Other symptoms of menopause are:

    • Aches, weakness or stiffness caused by reduced oestrogen levels, stress or tension, and lack of exercise
    • Constipation and gas – reduced oestrogen levels cause your digestive tract to slow down
    • Coughing, laughing, exercising, or carrying heavy things may cause urine to leak – this is known as incontinence
    • Hot flashes and night sweats from hormonal changes – usually occur at night and may interrupt your sleep:
      1. Red blotches on your chest, back, and arms, sometimes with sweating, rapid heartbeat, nausea and dizziness
      2. Sudden intense heat in the upper part or all over your body, particularly the face and neck
    • Poor sleep – usually caused by night sweats but can be a symptom of anxiety or depression
    • Skin and hair changes – your skin becomes thinner and drier, with more bruising and itching, and your hair growth slows down and your hair becomes less manageable
    • Vaginal changes:
      1. Sexual intercourse may become uncomfortable or painful
      2. The skin around the vaginal opening becomes dry and thin, causing discomfort or itching
      3. The vagina becomes more vulnerable to infection
      4. The vaginal lining becomes drier, thinner and less elastic
    • Weight gain around your waist – your body begins to use calories more slowly, so you need to eat fewer calories
    • Your urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder) may become inflamed or irritated causing frequent urination, a feeling of wanting to urinate urgently or pain on urination
  • Menopause is diagnosed once a woman does not experience menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Generally, menopause symptoms are enough to confirm a woman is going through menopause. However, further evaluation may be recommended in some circumstances. The doctor may recommend the following:

    • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen (estradiol)
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) – to rule out hypothyroidism, which causes symptoms similar to menopause symptoms.
  • Most women do not need treatment for menopause. For some women, the symptoms go away by themselves, and they don't find the symptoms uncomfortable. If you are troubled by the symptoms, there are ways to treat them, including medications and lifestyle changes:

    • Aches, weakness and stiffness – regular exercise and relaxation practices
    • Constipation and gas – eat high-fibre foods (e.g. fruits, wholemeal bread, and fresh vegetables)
    • Hot flashes and night sweats – wear cool natural clothing like cotton to let your skin ‘breathe’, drink something cold at the start of a flash, shower with tepid water instead of taking warm baths, and avoid alcohol, coffee and spicy food
    • Medication:
      1. Hormone therapy for moderate to severe symptoms
      2. Low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills) to stop or reduce hot flashes, vaginal dryness and moodiness
    • Other medications may help with specific symptoms vaginal and urinary tract changes – use a water-soluble lubricant before sexual intercourse, maintain your personal hygiene and exercise regularly to prevent urinary incontinence
    • Weight gain – cut down on your calorie intake and exercise regularly

    Speak to a doctor to learn more about menopause treatment options, and how to better manage or reduce your symptoms.

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