Menopause is an important turning point in a woman’s life. Usually occurring around the age of 50, it coincides with the end of the reproductive period. Sometimes it brings its share of changes and inconveniences that you need to be aware of in order to be well prepared.
What is menopause?
In women aged 45 to 55 on average, menopause is a natural physiological process, that is, an obligatory stage in aging. It consists of a stop of ovulation due to an exhaustion of all the primordial follicles located in the ovaries which are responsible for the release of oocytes in the uterine tubes. There is therefore a permanent cessation of periods and therefore menstrual cycles because of the cessation of estrogen secretion. Menopause is confirmed with certainty after a period of absence of menstruation of 12 consecutive months.
- Perimenopause: menopause is often preceded by perimenopause, a period during which ovarian activities slow down and female hormones are reduced. The menstrual cycles becomes irregular, first shortened and then lengthened with increasingly spaced periods. It lasts about 5 years before the permanent interruption of periods, and can sometimes already give some hot flashes, fatigue, irritability, or sleep disturbances.
- Early menopause: early menopause occurs before the age of 40, affecting 1 to 2% of women. Smokers can experience early menopause by 1 to 2 years. It is directly linked to the depleted egg stock.
- Late menopause: late menopause occurs after 55 or even 60 years. It is often familial or caused by obesity.
Am you reaching menopause?
60 to 70% of women suffer from climacteric disorders at the time of menopause. These climacteric disorders vary from one woman to another. Even if they are not life-threatening, they can seriously affect the quality of life.
1. Irregular cycles
The first symptoms can appear years before the onset of menopause, this is called perimenopause.
It results in irregular cycles, first shorter and then longer. In a “normal” cycle, a woman secretes first estrogen, then progesterone after ovulation.
In perimenopause, there is too much estrogen production. Since women no longer ovulate regularly, they are found in excess in the body, causing breast tension, feelings of swelling and heaviness as well as very heavy periods, then less abundant and less regular.
2. Hot flashes
Hot flashes affect nearly 3 out of 4 women aged 48 and over. These are sudden surges in body heat, which can occur day or night and are accompanied by flushing of the face and chest, sweating and sometimes dizziness, tingling and palpitations. These hot flashes start in perimenopause and sometimes last for several months, sometimes for years.
3. Weight gain
In perimenopause, the metabolism changes and losing weight becomes more difficult, as the metabolism slows down and the drop in estrogen promotes the accumulation of fat in the belly.
On the other hand, this hormonal deficiency amplifies food compulsions (sugar, fat). Hence the importance of eating a balanced diet and exercising!
4. A gloomy mood
Lack of motivation, irritability, melancholy, gloom, emotional fragility, anxiety… Symptoms often cited by women going through menopause. Indeed, the drop in female hormones can lead to depression because estrogen regulates our mood.
5. A lack of energy
The gradual decrease in estrogen is once again responsible for the onset of a certain lack of energy, even severe fatigue, which begins during the period of perimenopause. Indeed, hormones play an “anti-fatigue” role on the brain, a significant decrease or increase of hormones will have an impact on our mood.
Sleep disturbances can also accompany this lack of energy.
6. Decreased libido
It is estimated that at menopause, about half of women complain of reduced vaginal lubrication and decreased clitoral sensitivity. Even more of them would experience a decrease in their sexual desire as soon as their periods stopped.
Once again, low libido and vaginal dryness are linked to the drop in hormones.
7. Other symptoms
During or before menopause, a woman can also suffer from:
- Urinary disorders
- Joint pain
- Loss of attention
- Memory loss
Keeping in mind, apart from stopping menstruation, not all of the above disorders are constant and may affect some women more or less or not at all. Many women do not have any of these symptoms.
If these symptoms appear, a consultation with your gynecologist is also recommended. The latter will then be able to advise you on an appropriate treatment to alleviate these symptoms and considerably improve your quality of life. In addition, regular physical activity is an additional boost in reducing stress and anxiety.
Erica is an experienced nurse working in the central Florida area. She focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She is a mother of two with hobbies ranging from dancing to playing the piano.