1. What is menopause and when does it occur?
Duration of one year without getting a menstrual period is called ‘Menopause’. The age when a woman reaches menopause state differs from person to person. Typically, by the age of 55 years, many women reach menopause. Age of menopause depends on the genetics of the women. Women who smoke or who underwent chemotherapy will attain menopause at an early age.
2. What changes happen inside the body during menopause?
By the time the body reaches menopause stage, ovaries produce lesser amounts of estrogen and progesterone hormones. This can result in certain symptoms along with absence of menstrual periods. Some symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, weight gain, mood swings, muscle and joint pains, reduced bone density, dryness of vagina (Vagina Atrophy), thinning of tissues in the vagina leading to painful intercourse.
3. Do the menstrual periods stop all of a sudden?
No. Menstrual periods won’t stop all of a sudden. There is a period before attaining Menopause, called Perimenopause. This is the period when ovaries start producing lesser amounts of estrogen and progesterone hormones. During this time, periods don’t occur at regular intervals like they used to. Delayed, irregular periods will be seen. At one point, when the delay is longer than 12 months, then, the person is said to have reached menopause state. Few symptoms such as hot flashes, dryness of vagina may be experienced during Perimenopause state.
4. What are hot flashes during menopause?
When you have a ‘hot flash’, the temperature of your body rises, typically in the upper half of the body. For some, the skin may even turn red. You may experience excessive sweating, heart palpitations and dizziness.
Hot flashes can occur once in a week to multiple times in a day. The frequency of hot flashes varies from person to person. Apart from the hormonal changes inside the body, there are some external factors that are believed to trigger hot flash in women:
- Alcohol or Caffeine consumption
- Consuming spicy foods
- Living or working in a hot environment.
- Overweight or obese.
You can prevent (at reduce the severity of symptoms) by avoiding smoking (active & passive), stopping alcohol and caffeine products, eating less spicy foods, dressing in layers, having a fan or an Air Conditioner closer to you.
5. What other effects on the body can be seen due to menopause?
Menopause affects the bone density (calcium density) in the bones. Bones become brittle and may break easily. Decreased bone density can also lead to a condition called ‘Osteoporosis’.
In order to make up for the losing bone density, women should:
- Spend enough time in Sunlight so that their body can make Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps in absorbing calcium from foods consumed.
- Eat calcium rich foods such as Milk and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Exercising regularly to keep a check on the weight and to maintain muscle strength.
- Avoid alcohol and Smoking.
Along with reduced bone density, decreased levels of hormones can also reduce the flexibility of arteries impacting the blood flow to heart. This can lead to heart diseases.
Ageing as well as menopause can reduce the metabolism of the body leading to weight gain. It is important to work out regularly and avoid smoking and alcohol consumption.
6. Will women who underwent hysterectomy also reach menopause?
Yes, women who had their uterus removed (via hysterectomy) will also reach menopause state but they wouldn’t know because they were not having their periods since the removal of the uterus. These women will still experience symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes.
In such a scenario, women should see a gynecologist and get her hormone levels tested. Her doctor would know if the menopause state has been reached and if she is at risk of developing any heart disease or bone related issues.
7. How does HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) work to reduce the symptoms of Menopause?
Hormone replacement therapy involves putting the woman on synthetic hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Typically in women with uterus (who didn’t undergo hysterectomy) both of these hormones will be given to prevent the development of endometrial cancer. (Endometrial cancer is seen in women (with uterus) who were administered only estrogen). In women without uterus, only estrogen may suffice. The gynecologist will be the best person to decide on what hormones to replace and in what quantities and in which way (oral, vaginal etc).
To learn more about Hormone Replacement Therapy, please visit the following article:
8. Are there any other methods apart from HRT to treat symptoms of Menopause?
Yes, if Hormone Replacement Therapy is not right for your or if you don’t prefer to use synthetic hormones to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, your doctor may put you on different medication and advise changes in your lifestyle.
Life style changes typically include working out regularly and maintaining healthy weight, eating nutritious food, getting good night sleep, avoiding spicy foods, alcohol, smoking etc. You may be put on acupuncture if you are ok with your doctor’s suggestion.
Menopause is a stage in every woman’s life. If you are not able to tolerate the symptoms brought in by the changes in hormones in your body, don’t hesitate to see a good gynecologist near you.