menopauseJust after Nusrat hit 50, she started to get very emotional. She would cry at the smallest thing or lose her temper at the drop of a hat, which was very surprising to everyone around her. The frequent mood swings, she assumed were just an extension of her stressful lifestyle. She also noticed that she started putting on weight, but again blamed stress. She continued to be ignorant for over a year. Although she sometimes wondered if she was menopausal, she was too busy to give the symptoms much consideration and felt embarrassed talking about it.

Menopause is still such a taboo area that it is hard to pop the subject into a conversation. What many of us fail to understand, is like puberty, menopause is a normal phase of life. It is the time of your last period, but symptoms can begin several years earlier. What really happens is that the body goes through changes that no longer allow you to get pregnant. Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are two female hormones made in your ovaries, might lead to these symptoms. The hormone changes that happen around menopause affect every woman differently. They may last 5 or more years. Some women may have worse symptoms than others.

Common symptoms include - 

  • Irregular periods that eventually stop
  • Sudden feelings of heat (hot flashes) all over especially in the upper part of your body
  • Heavy sweating and cold shivering after the hot flashes
  • Trouble sleeping through the night
  • Vaginal and urinary problems

Other symptoms include:

  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Forgetfulness
  • Headaches
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Unpredictable mood swings

Treatment is not required unless the symptoms are bothering you. Some minor adjustments and changes in your lifestyle may help with the symptoms. If you’re lucky, some symptoms might disappear on their own. 

Here are some ways to deal with symptoms:

  • Try avoiding spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress, or being in a hot place in order to prevent hot flashes.
  • Try taking slow, deep breaths when a hot flash starts
  • Be physically active but not too close to bedtime, as excess exertion may keep you awake
  • Avoid large meals, smoking, and working right before bed
  • Say no to napping during the day
  • If you can’t get to sleep, get up and read until you’re tired.
  • Learn ways to deal with stress, meditate.
  • Dress lightly and in layers
  • Have sex regularly

If forgetfulness or other mental problems are affecting your daily life, see your doctor.

Your doctor might advise menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), which can be very effective in treating hot flashes and night sweats. MHT, which used to be called hormone replacement therapy (HRT), involves taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (Women who don’t have a uterus anymore take just estrogen). It can be very good at relieving moderate to severe menopausal symptoms and preventing bone loss. Apart from certain side effects like vaginal bleeding, bloating, tenderness in the breast, nausea and headache, MHT can also have its own share of risks especially if used for a long time. It is known to increase chances of blood clot formation, heart attacks, stroke, breast cancer and gall bladder disease.

How can MHT help you?

  • It reduces hot flashes, night sweats and irritability
  • It helps reduce vaginal symptoms such as dryness and pain during sex
  • It slows the rate of bone loss thus reducing chances of developing osteoporosis
  • It helps ease mood swings and depression

A recent study suggests that the low-dose patch form of MHT may not have the possible risk of stroke that other forms can have. Talk with your doctor about the positives and negatives of MHT based on your medical history and age. Keep in mind, too, that you may also develop symptoms when you stop MHT. Try asking about alternative treatment options.

MHT is not recommended for women who think they are pregnant, have problems with undiagnosed vaginal bleeding, have had certain kinds of cancers (such as breast or uterine cancer), have had a stroke/ heart attack/ blood clots or have had liver/ heart disease.

These days, it has been observed that the age for the onset of menopause has been decreasing. Women in their early 40s in the cities with jet-setting careers and unhealthy lifestyles are now experiencing symptoms of menopause. With a few lifestyle modifications and awareness about menopause, one can lead a normal, fulfilling life.