What Women need to know about menopause

Menopause transition can be inherently difficult for an average woman, but it can also be a time of reflection and inspiration as some women find a new sense of freedom and anticipate personal growth. It is important for women to accept menopause with good attitude, as the attitude with which you embark upon can have a tremendous impact on the experience of it. Menopause also known as the climacteric is the absence of menstrual periods in women. The menopausal transition starts with varying menstrual cycle length and ends with the final menstrual period.

It is the time in a woman’s life when the function of the ovaries ceases and can no longer become pregnant. The term “menopause” is a Greek word derived from “menos” or “month” and “pausis” or ‘’cease”. At this period, the ovarian function declines, menstruation cycle stops and the monthly spike of reproductive hormones recedes.

The average age of menopause is 51 years but there is no way to predict when an individual woman will have menopause or begin having symptoms suggestive of menopause. However, most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but the menopause may occur as early as ages 30 or 40, or may not occur until a woman reaches her 60s.

Menopause is reached at the point in time at which a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Therefore women have either reached these points are post menopausal or have not pre menopausal. Menopause itself is not a process but denotes the point when menses have ceased for 12 months in a row. However, the process of declining hormone levels prior to menopause has been referred to as peri menopause or the menopausal transition. This process can last for up to 10years or more in some women and is variable in length.

Peri menopause, often accompanied by irregularities of menstrual period is the 3 to 5 years period before the menopause when a woman’s estrogen levels begin to drop.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests there may be an association between chronic fatigue syndrome in women and early menopause as well as other gynecologic conditions. In an interview with Sunday Mirror, a medical practitioner with Bishop Awe Medical Center, Abaranje, Ikotun, Lagos State, Dr Olaiya Albert Awe explained further on the symptoms of menopause.

He said “Irregular periods is usually the first symptom as the menstrual pattern changes, some may experience a period every two or three weeks while others will not have one for months, vaginal dryness accompanied by itching or discomfort. Some women may experience dyspareunia (pain during sex). On the symptoms, some women feel a sudden heat in the upper body, it may start in the face, neck or chest and then spreads upwards or downwards depending on where it started, women tend to be more susceptible to urinary tract infections such as Cystitis, having to urinate may occur more frequently more fat building up in the abdomen, hair loss and loss of breast size.

He further explained that on the causes of menopause, he said “Menopause occurs due to a complex series of hormonal changes, associated with the menopause is a decline in the number of ovaries. At the time of birth, most females have about 1 to 3 million eggs, which are gradually lost throughout a woman’s life. By the time of a girl’s menstrual period, she has an average of 400,000 eggs but by the time of menopause, a woman may have fewer than
10,000 eggs.

A small percentage of these eggs are lost through normal ovulation (the monthly cycle) most eggs die off through a process called atresia which means the degeneration and subsequent resorption of immature ovarian follicles filled cysts that contain the eggs.

After the menopause, it is common for patient to experience some chronic conditions which include cardiovascular disease, which is a drop in estrogen levels often goes hand in hand with an increased risk of cardio vascular disease, but in order to reduce the risk , it is advisable that the sufferer should quit smoking, try to keep the blood pressure within normal levels, plenty of regular exercise ,sleep at least seven hours each night and eat a well balanced healthy diet; another is low libido, Overweight or obesity, urinary incontinence and breast cancer.

On the treatment, medics revealed, “Menopause itself is a normal part of life and not a disease that require treatment. However, treatment of associated symptoms is possible if these become substantial or severe, such as oral conceptive pills a form of hormone therapy prescribed for women in peri menopause to treat irregular vaginal bleeding.

All peri menopausal and postmenopausal women should see their health care practitioner annually for a physical exam which include a breast exam, pelvic exam and mammogram. Women should learn about the risk factors for heart disease and colon cancer and consider being screened for these diseases.

Women who are still menstruating and are sexually active are at risk of becoming pregnant even if their periods are irregular. Birth control pills containing low doses of estrogen can be useful for peri menopausal women to prevent pregnancy and to relieve peri menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes”.

However, when a patient notices the symptoms she should visit a nearby medical center as the kind of treatment the patient should have depends on her symptoms, medical history as well as her personal preferences.

He added; “patient can also help by avoiding tight clothing, make sure the bedroom is not hot, try to reduce the levels of stress, stay sexually active, also it is important to get some vaginal lubricants or moisturizers, also by eating plenty of vegetables, fruits as well as taking some multi vitamins to enrich the body”.