Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary
There are many transitions in a female’s life starting from puberty to menopause, physical changes from a girl to women, and pregnancy to breastfeeding. All these changes take a toll on the mind, with multiple questions spinning our head. Most of them go unanswered, or we don’t even try to get the answers for them.
Out of all these transitions, menopause is one such change that goes completely ignored, with very little knowledge about the issues involved. Menopause is that phase of female’s life in which the menstruation cycle comes to a stop, and there is no chance of getting pregnant. This phase brings about a lot of changes in the female’s life that can even affect her partner, sister, mother, friends or any other female relative, directly or indirectly.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a progressive and natural process in which there is little production of ovaries and the female reproductive hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, putting the menstrual cycle to a stop. This entire process starts slowly and silently when the females turn around 40, showing the pre-menopause symptoms.
The average age of menopause ranges from 48-51 years and it shows its occurrence in these three stages:
- Perimenopause: This starts several years before the start of menopause and lasts till menopause. It begins when the ovaries start producing less amount of estrogen. There is a quick drop in the estrogen levels in the last 1 to 2 years of this phase, causing the menopausal symptoms or early menopause symptoms.
- Menopause: This is the stage in which a female does not have her menstrual cycle in the past year, and the ovaries have stopped producing eggs.
- Postmenopause: This is the stage which occurs years after reaching menopause. In this, the common menopause symptom is at ease, but the females are at high risk for various health issues.
Why it occurs?
At the time of birth mostly all the females have approximately 1 to 3 million eggs. Females tend to lose these eggs monthly, and this process goes through their life. This process goes like:
- First menstrual cycle: female has an average of 400,000 eggs
- End of menstrual cycle(menopause): less than 10,000 eggs
A tiny portion of these eggs is lost in the normal ovulation process (that is the monthly cycle), and most of the eggs die through a process termed as Atresia. These ovaries are responsible for the production of the two most important hormones that control the menstruation cycle and the ovulation, these are:
Follicle -stimulating hormone (FSH) is a reproductive hormone that is normally responsible for the growth of the eggs or the ovarian follicles. As menopause starts approaching, the eggs become resistant FSH, causing a significant reduction in the production of the hormone known as estrogen. Loss of estrogen is one of the causes of menopause-related symptoms.
Menopause is a normal aging process, which can start showing its signs after the age of 40 years. These symptoms can take a significant toll in a female’s life, which she is not aware of and mostly suffer silently.
The hormonal changes during menopause, cause multiple symptoms that can last from a few months to years. These discomforts vary from female to female and can be from slight discomfort to worse. Some of the common signs of menopause or hormone imbalance symptoms, which every later female stage should be aware of are:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Painful sex, as there can be vaginal dryness
- Not having a quality sleep
- Mood swings
All the hormones have their designated role in the body, and that’s what keeps our body healthy and functional, this even includes the reproductive hormones. With the increasing age, if there is a drop in the production of any of these hormones, it can lead to various health issues.
A drop in the reproductive hormone, estrogen, and progesterone impacts the heart and bone. It leads to:
- Heart Diseases: A reduction in the estrogen levels are associated with various heart diseases in females. With the advancing age or nearing menopause, the female is more prone to develop blood pressure, weight gain putting them at high risk for heart diseases.
- Osteoporosis: Our body goes through the natural process of breaking the old bone and replacing them with new ones and is controlled by estrogen. During menopause, as there is a drop in the estrogen levels, there is more of bone loss and less of new bone. It makes the bone weak and fragile, leading to a condition called osteoporosis.
Treatment and Care
Menopause is a naturally occurring process and requires no treatment. The focus is on providing relief from the symptoms and preventing the various linked complications. It mostly includes:
- A regular preventive health check-up up for covering an examination of the cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis
- Hormone therapy is recommended to provide relief from the hot flashes
- Vaginal estrogen can be administered for preventing vaginal dryness
- Low dose anti-depressants
- Medications to prevent osteoporosis
- Having a healthy diet
Menopause is not a disease, but only a significant change in a female’s life, associated with its side effects. Some changes in the lifestyle and taking more care can make this a smooth transition!
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