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Understanding Menopause

During menstruation, the body expels the old uterine layer to replenish itself for a fresher layer that can sustain a pregnancy. Throughout the cycle, hormones also go up and down to accommodate the changes in the body. However, this cycle has a limit. Once women go past a certain age, it stops happening. This time is called “menopause.” Have you ever wondered what will happen then?

What is a period?
This is the time when a woman is between two menstrual cycles. The body is getting rid of the remnants of the old menstrual cycle to prepare for the next. The blood and outer uterine layer are expelled out from the uterus through the vagina.

What is menopause?
Menopause (meno= month, pause= discontinuation) is the time when a woman has finished all her menstrual cycles and will no longer have any more menstrual cycles. She can no longer get pregnant as menopause marks the end of the reproductive period.

What is perimenopause?
This is the time leading up to menopause. In this time, the body’s hormone levels drop and the body Aldo suffers other changes in form and behaviour.

What happens during menopause?
A woman is born with a specific number of eggs arrested in a vegetative state. Every woman is unique and thus, the number of eggs varies from woman to woman. Once a woman hits maturity, her hormones surge and her reproductive period begin. These eggs can be fertilized by sperm.

Menopause occurs when all the eggs have either been used up, either fertilized or expelled through menstruation. There is a natural reduction in the hormone levels secreted by the ovaries.

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When does a woman usually experience menopause?
It is dependent upon the remaining eggs. Hence, all women can experience menopause at different ages of their lives. However, most women go through this change after 40 years.

What is premature menopause?
Many women can also experience premature menopause. In this condition, a woman undergoes menopause before the age of 40.

What is the link between ovaries and menopause?
Ovaries make hormones. However, after a certain age, hormone production lowers or slows down. This tends to cause menopause. Ideally, the ovaries can also be defective and cause this to happen.

Can removing an ovary cause menopause?
Sometimes our body can become harmed and in turn cause more harm to itself. If a woman is suffering from uterine cancer or endometriosis, the ovaries may even have to be removed. This will cause a radical lowering of hormone levels and menopause will occur.

What is “induced menopause”?
Induced menopause occurs when the ovaries are either surgically removed or when there is any radiation damage.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of menopause?

1. Hot flashes:
When a woman is experiencing menopause, all her hormones are out of control. Hormone levels rise and drop. FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. FSH levels increase during menopause whereas estrogen levels decrease. Hot flashes are also called vasomotor symptoms, Hot flashes are a sudden sensation of heat in the chest, face, and head followed by flushing, perspiration, and sometimes chills. A hot flash can also be accompanied by sweat. This usually occurs when a woman is asleep. Night sweats are very uncomfortable.

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2. Disturbed sleep pattern:
Our body is a very fragile balance of hormones. If one goes up, the other goes down to compensate. Hormones do not merely play a role in sexual function but also control and regulate other functions in the body. They also have an effect on sleep. Progesterone is a hormone that regulates sleep. In fact, it is known as a ‘sleep-producing hormone’.

Progesterone levels fall in menopause due to which there are disturbances in sleep, like

  • It takes pretty long to fall asleep, even half an hour or more
  • Sleep time is usually short-lived. There are seldom nights where a 6-hour sleep is achieved
  • Even if someone is not an early riser, they wake up fairly early due to menopause
  • Sleep is not fulfilling or restful. Despite laying in bed, they are constantly tired
  • Since sleep is unfulfilling, then the person remains groggy throughout the day
  • They are so tired that they are always complaining about not getting enough sleep

 

3. Changing Heart Rate:
Altered hormone levels cause changed heart activity. It has been noted that menopause increases heart rate by 8 to 16 bpm (beats per minute).

4. Pain:
Pain is a very common symptom and it is also one that most women are afraid of. Depression in hormone production may lead to effects on different parts of the body like joints, muscles, uterus and breast. Joints become inflamed due to which moving around becomes quite difficult. Muscles also ache due to fibromyalgia whereas the uterus can undergo cramps. The breast tissue can become sensitive and there may be breast tenderness.

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5. Changes in libido:
Changes in hormone levels cause vaginal dryness. The lubricant that is naturally present in a woman’s vagina is deficient due to which there is less lubrication during sexual intercourse. This causes excess friction and may even cause chaffing of the skin. Due to this, sexual intercourse is very challenging and painful.

6. Fatigue:
Women undergoing menopause experience general tiredness and also due to the constant state of pain.

7. Bladder control issues:
Women can also have problems with incontinence. They may experience various attacks of urinary tract infections.

8. Mood swings:
Every woman knows the mood swings a regular period brings. If you think that was bad, wait till you go through menopause. This roller coaster of hormones will have you feeling happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.

9. Altered breast sensation:
Tender breasts are felt by a lot of women.

What should I do?

In case of any query or concern, contact your gynaecologist. They will guide you through the whole process and help you in adjusting to a new phase of your life.

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