Periods are over, no pregnancy threats, sexual freedom… but wait!
It was with the Ancient Greeks that the term menopause was derived – men + pauein. The word men referred to “month” which was related to the moon. As months were measured by the moon, it was thus referred to as the monthly cycle. The term pauein meant to “stop”. As such, menopause is the term we use to refer to the end of menstruation – the cessation of the monthly cycle.
Medically, we say a woman is in menopause when she has had one year of no periods. Women, however, may start experiencing symptoms of menopause long before their last period, and therefore, we will often ‘treat’ menopause before it starts, making the end of menstruation just a milestone in our lives as opposed to a disease state.
Women, however, may start experiencing symptoms of menopause long before their last period
From puberty to menopause is a journey that women embark on, willingly or not. Bodies change, periods come and go, reproduction may or may not occur and symptoms that require treatment may arise.
These are all the hormonal changes that affect our bodies and being prepared for them, knowing what to expect and when to worry are important aspects of gynaecological care.
At menopause, the ovaries essentially run out of eggs. These eggs have been producing estrogen throughout our lives.
Estrogen has been responsible for breast development, periods, vaginal lubrication, and bone health, just to name a few of its functions. As we run out of eggs, the estrogen levels fall and changes occur in all the organs and tissues that rely on this hormone for support.
The media love to make fun of the hot flashes as the hallmark of menopause, but in fact, many women, especially women today, have very few symptoms. Healthy lifestyles, including not smoking and exercise, can minimise many of the usual menopausal symptoms. However if you are not one of these women, any change in menstrual cycles before the last periods such as persistent bleeding, heavy bleeding or painful bleeding, should be assessed medically.
Healthy lifestyles, including not smoking and exercise, can minimise many of the usual menopausal symptoms.
After menopause, have your physician follow your breast and bone health and don’t be embarrassed to speak of the many uncomfortable and painful signs and symptoms of urogenital atrophy (the ageing vagina). These can include: vaginal dryness, vaginal burning, vaginal discharge, genital itching, burning with urination, urgency with urination, more urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, light bleeding after intercourse, discomfort with intercourse, and decreased vaginal lubrication during sexual activity. You are not alone. Over 80 per cent of women experience something and there is help. There’s even been some women as well as adult actresses off of sites such as m-porn.xxx that remain convinced sex can become much better once you’ve hit menopause.
The history of ‘treatment’ for menopause has been controversial. Why treat something that is not a disease? The modern approach to menopause is to help with symptom relief. Offering estrogen and progesterone as hormone replacement is reserved for patients with symptoms that will respond to this for quality of life, and for the right patient. Some treatment options for individual symptoms may be non-hormonal, and can work well. The discussion of hormones or not, is an important one to have with a trained professional, and options such as mindfulness, exercise, naturopathic treatments, and acupuncture can often be helpful. Exciting technology for urogenital atrophy has added a unique alternative to local lubricants and moisturisers.
It is important that women going through menopause see their health care provider to address their concerns, anticipate potential issues and ensure that their lifestyle choices promote good health.