Menopause is a reality of life for anybody with a uterus. The word comes from the Greek ‘mens’, meaning monthly, and ‘pausis’ which means cessation. For many, it is a difficult transition as your body goes through changes. But it also means no more period cramps or pregnancy scares.
The average age for people to go through menopause in the US is 51. But for some, it starts as early as in their 40s. Menopause is diagnosed after someone has not gotten their period for a full year. This also means people with menopause, can’t get pregnant.
Why does Menopause Happen
Well, to properly understand what’s going on in your body during menopause, it’s time for a quick biology lesson.
Women and other people with uteruses are born with finite eggs. This means that women are born with all the eggs they have for the rest of their life. At birth, women have between 700,000 to 2 million oocytes. An oocyte is an immature egg cell that lives in a follicle. Basically, during the menstrual cycle, follicles and oocytes in them begin to mature and grow faster.
Of these, one becomes a star: one follicle will grow faster than the rest. Once it has fully grown, the oocyte breaks off into the follicle and becomes an ovum. The ovum is what everyone usually refers to when they say an egg.
Every single month during the menstrual cycle, women lose around 1000 oocytes. Fewer than 500 of the eggs become ovulated.
Perimenopause signals the time that the lead up to menopause begins. It usually starts several years before menopause, due to the ovaries producing less estrogen than before. It is often a gradual process rather than an overnight change. In the last year or 2 of perimenopause, the decrease in the production of estrogen quickens and becomes more dramatic. This is when menopause symptoms start to appear.
Symptoms of Menopause
At the core of menopause is hormone changes and that is bound to give anybody a hard time. It can be difficult for your body to adjust itself to new hormone levels after years of more or less stable hormone production. This hormone change brings along different symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
Much like most things, the symptoms vary among different people. Everybody reacts to this change differently so there is no way of predicting the severity of these symptoms for each individual.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is used to alleviate symptoms of menopause and to prevent bone loss in menopausal women. It is a widely used and common treatment, but as with most things, it has its risks too.
Hormone Replacement Therapy treats the symptoms of menopause by providing the hormones that the body no longer produces or produces enough of. These hormones include estrogen and progesterone. This helps alleviate symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness and can provide comfort to those who are struggling.
However, some studies have shown that there are risks to hormone replacement therapy. Some of these risks include :
- Increased chance of blood clots
- Increased chance of strokes
- Increased chance of gallstones or other gallbladder issues
- Increased chance of breast cancer for those older than their 50s (typically, this risk is lower for those who start hormone replacement therapy when they begin menopause in their 50s)
It is very important that after doing your research, you consult your doctor about your options. Hormones are a tricky business and must be monitored and administered based on the strict and professional guideline. Every individual’s body is very different, what may work well for some, will not work for others.
Your hormone replacement therapy regime must be tailored specifically for you and your body so that you can be as safe as you can.
Other Ways to Alleviate Menopause Symptoms
If you are wary of treating your symptoms with hormone replacement therapy, there are other options. With lifestyle changes and alternative ways, you can try and manage your symptoms. Again, everything works differently for every individual so keep that in mind.
For symptoms of joint pain and aches, consider incorporating lots of leafy greens and citrus into your diet. Greens like kale will provide calcium and citrus provides vitamin C. These are both crucial components of healthy bones. Read more about join pain management here.
For vaginal dryness, temporary measure includes vaginal moisturizers. Like every other part of your body, your vagina needs some TLC and vaginal moisturizers can be bought over the counter. For discomfort during sex, water-based vaginal lubricants are the way to go. They can be applied before or during intercourse.
You have reached a new milestone. Enjoy it!