Menopause is a common and natural biological process which comes in every woman’s life when she ages between 45 and 55. It is that period in the life of a woman in which she naturally stops having menstrual periods and its been 12 months after she had her last periods. Also, menopause is the end of fertility which means the ability of a woman to get pregnant or to have children.
In medical terms, menopause is defined as a psychological process in women which is characterized by permanent cessation of menses due to reduction in the secretion of ovarian hormones.
What causes menopause?
When a girl reaches her early teenage years, she starts to have monthly hormonal cycle which is known as the menstrual cycle. During each cycle, there is an increase in the hormone known as estrogen which stimulates the growth of eggs in the ovaries, resulting in ovulation. Another important hormone progesterone causes the thickening of the lining of the uterus and when it is not fertilised by the sperm, the hormonal level drop and menstruation happens.
But with advancing age, the ability of a woman to ovulate decreases and there is a significant decrease in the production of estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries becomes less active and as she gets older, the ovaries stop functioning and no more eggs are released. Reaching the period of menopause.
Menopause is a process which occurs over months and years. There are three stages of menopause - perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
- Perimenopause is a period in which women experience menstruation but it becomes irregular and is accompanied by the onset of menopausal symptoms such as mood swings, low sex drive, and hot flush. This period can last for four to five years and longer. At this point women runs out of eggs.
- Menopause is the period in which women do not have menstruation as at this point no more eggs are released by the ovaries.
- Postmenopause is the period or years that follow menopause. At this point the risk of developing many health problems increases.
Many women go through this phase of their lives without facing any problems. Whereas for many women it is linked to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms that can range from mild to severe. For those who do have problems, each woman’s experience may differ.
1. Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are the most common symptoms associated with menopause. It is characterized by the sudden and exacerbated heat response leading to the feeling of intense heat, sweating, and peripheral vasodilation. These symptoms are more common during night. It causes the flushed sensation in the body and can occur anytime before, during, or after menopause. Hot flashes are believed to occur in the hypothalamus due to the withdrawal of estrogen. Changes in the levels of estrogen in the body could be the primary cause of hot flashes.
2. Sleep disorders
It is estimated that almost 90% of women having menopause complaints of suffering from problems with sleep, primarily insomnia. Insomnia is a disease in which a person finds it difficult to fall asleep or staying asleep, resulting in daytime sleepiness. It is believed that other menopausal symptoms are responsible for sleep disorders such as hot flashes and periodic limb movement. Periodic limb movement is characterized by bilateral repetitive movements of extremities.
3. Mood disorders
Mood disorders are also common also common in women when they reach perimenopause or menopause. During that period the risk of developing anxiety disorders or depression. These two are common and serious psychological disorders which are more common in females as compared to males and its risk increases greatly when women are at the period of menopause. One of the explanations to this is that the erratic levels of estrogen affect neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and norepinephrine, and their brain receptors.
4. Vaginal infections
The risk of developing vaginal infections also increases during this period. Along with infections, vaginal changes such as dryness is also common. Lack of estrogen in the body causes the vagina to become dry which can lead to painful sexual intercourse. This increases the risk of developing infections.
Why menopausal women are more likely to suffer from Osteoporosis?
Multiple studies have shown that women who reaches menopause or are at pre-menopause are more likely to suffer from a bone disorder known as osteoporosis. It is a disorder in which the bones become weak and are likely to break easily. In patients having osteoporosis, fractures are very common and are most common in the wrist, hip, and spine.
Hormones play a vital role in keeping bones strong. Estrogen which is one of the most important hormones to keep the reproductive health of the women normal is also important to protect bones and help them stay strong and healthy.
As women reaches near menopause, the ovaries stops the production of estrogen and as the levels of estrogen declines, they start to lose bone density. Also, as women gets older, the bone resorption begins to exceed bone formation.
The frequency and severity of these symptoms differ for every woman. There are some natural ways that can help a woman decrease the severity and frequency of the occurrence of these symptoms and some of these ways are as follows:
- Take a diet that can help you maintain sufficient levels of calcium and vitamin D which helps to maintain bone health.
- Avoid excessive intake of caffeine as it may cause sleep deprivation, resulting in exacerbating problems associated with sleep.
- Do not smoke as it can trigger early appearance of symptoms and it can also increase the risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
- Engage yourself in regular exercise as this can help in decreasing the risk of developing many health problems that can worsen the condition. Exercise can also help to prevent the stiffness of the bones and helps to make them healthy.