Menopause is a subject that is rarely discussed because of its highly personal nature. However this is a medical issue that affects every woman worldwide. Every woman with a reproductive system will eventually go through this biological process. Often statistics are released on different medical diseases or conditions, one in four or two in six, but this issue will afflict every single woman in the world. Menopause is the normal biological process of the reproductive system aging. It is officially defined as one year without a menstrual cycle. This seems like such a simplistic way of defining one of the most significant biological process a woman will go through in her life. As we age, we lose eyesight, hearing, mobility and many other systems begin to lose function. This is no different for a woman’s reproductive system.
Menopause is the process of a woman’s body shutting down her child bearing capability. This is not an overnight process. This takes most women years for the cessation of her reproductive capability to finalize. The ovaries job in the body is to release eggs every month for fertilization. If these eggs are not fertilized they are expelled from the body during menstruation. As a woman’s ovaries age, ovulation happens much less frequently. When this occurs irregular menstruation happens. This is usually one of the first signs a woman is entering into the process of menopause.
As a woman’s ovaries age, not only do they cease to ovulate eggs, but they also start shutting down the production and release of many essential hormones. The ovaries quit releasing estrogen and progesterone. This lack of hormones has a great impact on a woman biologically. There is usually on onset of many symptoms that can have a mild to severe effect on the woman. Every woman is different and every set of symptoms is different for each woman. There are two types of menopause, naturally occurring and surgical menopause. When a woman has a hysterectomy that includes a double oopherectomy (removal of both ovaries), she is immediately thrown into menopause. Many doctors try to leave one ovary so that this does not occur.
There are really two phases of menopause, peri-menopause and post-menopause. Peri-menopause means around or before menopause. This is the phase that many women suffer with. Peri-menopause is when the ovaries first quit working properly. Some of the symptoms women suffer with are irregular menstruation, hot flashes, heart palpitations, headaches, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, constipation, mood swings and many others because every woman is different.
One of the major symptoms women complain with is the dreaded “hot flash.” Many women can suffer with this for years before they enter into post-menopause. Many, in the medical community, believe that hot flashes are caused due to a malfunction of the hypothalamus, the temperature regulator in the body. These professionals believe that this malfunction is due to the lack of estrogen being produced by the ovaries. The hypothalamus gets a false message that the body is hot and reacts accordingly. If a woman is a smoker, this is the time to quit. Many doctors suggest that smoking contributes negatively to the length and severity of a hot flash. Hot flashes can last from a minute to ten minutes and happen several times a day to very few over the length of menopause.
During menopause women can also suffer with heart palpitations with or without a hot flash. This can be very disturbing be very disturbing for the individual. Many women who suffer from heart palpitations end up in the emergency room, fearing a heart attack. During heart palpitations the woman can also suffer a feeling of irritability or dread. There are many other symptoms that can cause distress and aggravation to the menopausal woman but heart palpitations and the hot flash are the two most worrisome for women.
Sexual dysfunction can also be a huge problem because it not only effects the woman, but also her significant other. The lack of interest due to low hormone levels, the inability to reach orgasm, the loss of elasticity, and the physical dryness cancan all damage the woman’s sex life, thus that of her partners. The damage this can do to the relationship can be irreversible. However, many of these symptoms can be treated with medications from your physician or over the counter drugs. Lubricants can help with dryness and kegal exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor making the vagina tighter. Many older women will tell you of home remedies and age old family secrets to cure what symptoms the menopausal woman may be suffering from.
The reality is that menopause does not require medications. If the woman can handle her symptoms without the use of prescriptions or over the counter drugs, then that is naturally the best thing. However, many women suffer much more severe symptoms that can be debilitating to their lives and thus require intervention.
The best thing women reaching menopause age can do is eat a healthy diet high in fiber and rich with vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D and calcium are a must have in a menopausal woman’s diet. Eating heart healthy is the best way to combat many of the symptoms. It is suggested, by many medical professionals, that the menopausal woman eat two hundred to four hundred fewer calories daily. This must be a permanent change, for the woman, just to maintain their weight. Exercise is the next best thing a woman can do before, during and after menopause. Daily meditation, yoga and stretching can help many women stay symptom free.
When none of these work sometimes medical interventions needed. Many women have to take a hormone replacement therapy to help with the symptoms. Each woman is different and may require different hormone therapies. Some require a simple low dose of birth control pills and others will have to take prescribed estrogen and progesterone. Many women are trying the new bioidentical hormones. This is a newer therapy in which specific tests are done and a medical professional creates a hormone that will best suit her body. The hormones are all natural and exactly the same as the hormones in the woman’s body. Bioidentical hormones are reported to have fewer side effects than synthetic hormones. Many women have taken estrogen replacement therapy and studies today are finding that this increases a woman’s chance for cancer of the breast and uterus, strokes and clots, heart disease and heart attacks. Estrogen must be taken along with progesterone and there is still a high rate of long term medical issues related to this hormone replacement therapy.
Although menopause is a natural part of growing older for all women, it also marks a time in her life that she must be more cautious of other health issues. Once a woman has taken the biological journey to post menopause her chances of developing other health problems increase. The risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and different types of cancer become much higher. Osteoporosis happens when a woman’s body is no longer producing estrogen. Estrogen helps protect bones to keep them strong. Without this important hormone a woman can lose up to twenty percent of her bone mass. This is why so many post menopausal suffer broken bones. Commercials for numerous types of of medications to prevent this are seen every day. Boniva is one that is prescribed to combat to combat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
Eating heart healthy will help prevent heart disease in the post-menopausal woman. Estrogen helps to keep cholesterol low so when it is no longer produced in our bodies, the menopausal woman must be more mindful of her diet. Working out at least three to four times a week and keeping stress to a minimum will also help prevent the number one killer, heart disease, of women today. These basic things will also help fight off cancers that women become more susceptible to after menopause. Women need to limit their intake of caffeine, alcohol and keep stress to a minimum to reduce symptoms and possible long term illness.
Many people suggest taking black cohosh an herbal supplement to reduce some menopausal symptoms. Due to the unknown long term effects, this has yet to be suggested by the medical community.
Menopause is a biological process every woman goes through to shut down her reproductive system. The process is that of natural selection. When a woman reaches her mid to late thirties, the amount of viable eggs left in a woman’s reproductive system is very low. The process of menopause ensures the human race will stay strong and fit. Women that continue to have babies into their forties are over fifty percent more likely to have babies with birth defects such as down syndrome.
Menopause is a difficult and long process that needs to be discussed with a woman’s doctor and her family members. Open communication on this subject is a must. Menopause is a natural part of growing older, unfortunately for most women not very gracefully.
Read about Peripause vs. Menopause