Menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive years. It is the time in a woman's life when she no longer has menstrual periods, and when her ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menopause is said to have occurred when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Most start going through menopause in their early 50s. It may however, start earlier due to an illness, medication, chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
The time leading up to menopause, which can last from 2 to 7 years, is known as perimenopause. During this time, menstrual periods become less predictable, happening more or less frequently than usual. Bleeding can also be heavier or lighter and not last as long as before. During this time, it is normal for typical menopausal symptoms to occur.
Menopause can bring about a variety of physical and emotional changes. Symptoms and their severity however, vary from one woman to another. While some symptoms are brought on by hormonal fluctuations, others are the result of physical changes associated with aging.
Primary symptoms include:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- sleep disturbances
- vaginal dryness
- difficulty concentrating
- memory lapses
- mood swings
- weight gain
- loss of libido
- skin aging
- dry hair
- bladder leaks, urinary urgency
Here are a few tips that may help improve some of your symptoms:
Avoid or decrease your intake of hot beverages such as coffee or tea, as well as alcohol and spicy foods.
Rather than eating 3 main meals a day, reduce your portion sizes and snack between meals.
If you are a smoker, try quitting as smoking increases the severity of hot flashes.
To make intercourse more comfortable, use a lubricant. You may also benefit from a vaginal moisturizer. Speak to your pharmacist.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon and limit your alcohol intake.
Reduce your fat and overall calorie intake and exercise regularly.
There are several approaches that could help. These include:
As at any age, physical activity provides several important benefits at the time of menopause. Exercising helps maintain or reach a healthy weight, promotes cardiovascular health, helps prevent bone density loss and improves sex drive. Furthermore, some studies have shown that women who are inactive experience more moderate to severe hot flashes than those who exercise regularly.
Deep breathing, massage, yoga, visualization and meditation may also help counter certain health issues.
There are several useful medications, including:
Certain hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone, may help alleviate some menopausal symptoms. These medications can help reduce hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, concentration problems, and mood swings, among others. Hormone therapy however, is not suitable for all women, and some may not be able to take hormones because of a medical condition. Speak to your healthcare provider.
Calcium and vitamin D may help fight osteoporosis. Speak to your healthcare provider before taking supplements.
Natural health products
There are many over-the-counter natural health products available. Some products however, may be harmful to some women, including those with a history of certain cancers or because they can interact with medications they are taking. Speak to your healthcare provider before taking any natural health products.
There are several other treatments that may be suggested. Do not hesitate to speak to a healthcare provider as they are there to help guide you.
When should I see my doctor?
You should see your healthcare provider if you have a period more often than every 3 weeks, or if bleeding is heavy. Also, do not hesitate to consult a medical professional if your symptoms become disruptive (e.g., sleep disturbances caused by night sweats, trouble working because of hot flashes, or if you are feeling sad).
Take care of yourself. An active lifestyle can help reduce the severity of certain menopausal symptoms. Remember that a healthy diet, exercising, and managing your weight and stress are essential during this phase of your life.
For more information or for support :
Menopause and U
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.