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What Exactly Do I Need to Know About Menopause?

Did you know one percent of the population experience early menopause?

Meet Dr Natasha Dole, our resident doc. She’s here to answer all your health-related questions.

It’s time to bust another medical myth with #AskADoc!

Dr Natasha Dole

Dr Natasha Dole

What exactly is menopause?

Menopause is that time in a woman’s life when she stops her monthly bleeds. This is a completely natural and normal process that occurs. It is a not a disease or a disorder.

Menopause occurs as your ovaries stop releasing their eggs and at the same time, two important reproductive hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) are no longer released as well. A woman can no longer get pregnant once she reaches menopause. Menopause commonly occurs anywhere between the ages of 45 – 55 and can be quite a difficult time mentally, physically and emotionally, especially since the changes occur very gradually over the years.

The completion of menopause occurs when a woman has gone period-free for an entire year. Most women reach this peak at 51 years of age. This transitional phase usually lasts an average of four years and ends with your last period.

So, how do you know if you are going through menopause?

Your periods start changing – their intensity, their duration, their regularity

You may experience:

  • Hot flushes
  • Depression
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning of your hair
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast pain
  • Loss of breast fullness
  • Migraines
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Night sweats
  • A change in libido
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory changes
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Generalised malaise and fatigue

What symptoms should I be worried about?

Most women do not need to see their doctors when these changes occur, but if the symptoms are getting too much, by all means, make a trip to your nearest health practitioner. Symptoms of concern include:

  • Excessive bleeding (usually > 3 weeks)
  • Bleeding that stops and restarts
  • Spotting between the bleeds
  • History of breast cancer

Patients who undergo chemo or radiotherapy can often have similar symptoms to that of menopause. However, it is very important that these patients continue their birth control, as the menstrual changes following cancer treatments are not permanent.

Approximately, one percent of the population experience early menopause in their 40s. This premature menopause is caused by the ovaries failing to produce the normal levels of your reproductive hormones. Genetic factors or autoimmune diseases are usually the cause of this.

Complications of menopause include:

  • More cardiovascular disease (e.g. higher blood pressure, abnormal
  • glucose or cholesterol levels)
  • Osteoporosis causing an increased risk of fractures
  • The involuntary passing of urine
  • The uncontrollable passing of urine with coughing, laughing or lifting
  • More frequent urinary tract infections

What is the best treatment for menopause?

Patients needing treatment for their menopause can be offered a whole host of options. We can start you on anti-depressants, or even hormone replacement therapy. There are many forms of hormone replacement therapy – creams, tablets or even vaginal rings. Some patients are also given the same medications to stop seizures, as this can significantly reduce the hot flushes. Natural remedies may also help. These include:

  • Increasing your calcium and vitamin D by taking regular supplements
  • Regular exercise especially pelvic floor strengthening
  • Avoidance of caffeine (both tea and coffee)
  • Dressing in layers
  • Stay away from the sun
  • Maintaining a well-balanced diet
  • Staying away from spicy foods
  • Quit smoking
  • Using lubricants before sexual intercourse
  • Maintaining regular sleeping patterns
  • Seeking social support from other women experiencing the same symptoms

The most important take away message is that at some point, we all go through this. If the symptoms are disrupting or taking over your life, remember that there are effective treatments available!

For those of you managing and pushing through this challenging time: Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

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