The following information about menopause  was written by women for women.  (See below for Menopause symptoms and treatments.)

Part I  —  A normal emotional response to menopause

The following is excerpted from,

THANK YOU, YOUR OPINION MEANS NOTHING TO ME: A Year of Hot Flashes, Flashbacks, and Finding My Voice

Menopause Happens
by Nancy Blair

(A kind of preface.)

How in the world did I arrive at menopause and not know what to expect? At first I thought I was dying of some insidious and catastrophic disease, of course only to realize much later on that dying-becoming aware of my own mortality-is precisely what my bodymind and spirit, my mid-life board of directors, was calling me to the table for. Not that I was dying of anything specific. I remember finally going to my doctor and plunking my perturbed and cranky butt on the crinkly translucent tissue paper covering the exam table, observing keenly that my increasingly dry skin could eventually and surely be sold for this very purpose, and exclaiming to my doctor with all the knowledge I had gained up to that point, “I’m either pregnant (my period was eight hours late) or I have a very bad sinus infection.”

You see, the big thing with menopause is that it doesn’t have an exact and definite beginning like its kid sister menarche or its fertile middle ground, motherhood. There are no big and hearty exclamations with the Change of Life. No wondrous weeping moments of joy and exhilaration accompanied by proud nods and big hugs to family, friends and anyone else who cares to listen, basically outright strangers and passersby. No. No cutesy, cryptic emails to classmates you haven’t seen or heard from in years. No spontaneous leaping up onto your cubicle desk chair triumphantly exclaiming to your work mates, Hey everyone, I have good news. I’m sweating like a horse. I’m now in menopause.

Learn more about Nancy Blair and her book, THANK YOU, YOUR OPINION MEANS NOTHING TO ME: A Year of Hot Flashes, Flashbacks, and Finding My Voice  Menopause book.

Part 2 –  All The Biological and Physical Parts of Menorpause

What is menopause?

Menopause is the natural ceasation of menstration which occurs as women age. Normal onset of menopause is between the age of 45 and 55. That’s why some people call menopause “the change of life.” During menopause a woman’s body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This often happens between the ages of 45 and 55 years old. A woman officially reaches menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row (and there are no other causes for this change).

Every woman’s period will stop at menopause. Some women may not have any other symptoms. But, as you near menopause, become perimenopausal, you may expereince:

  • Changes in your period – the time between periods and the flow from month to month may be different.
  • Abnormal bleeding or “spotting” – common as you near menopause. But if your periods have stopped for 12 months in a row and you still have “spotting,” you should report this symptom to your doctor to rule out serious causes, such as cancer.
  • Hot flashes (“hot flushes”) – getting warm in the face, neck and chest.
  • Night sweats and sleeping problems – these may lead to feeling tired, stressed, or tense.
  • Vaginal changes – the vagina may become dry and thin, and sex and vaginal exams may be painful. You also might get more vaginal infections.
  • Thinning of your bones – this may lead to loss of height and bone breaks (osteoporosis).
  • Mood changes – such as mood swings, depression, and irritability.
  • Urinary problems – such as leaking, burning or pain when urinating, or leaking when sneezing, coughing, or laughing.
  • Problems with concentration or memory.
  • Less interest in sex and changes in sexual response.
  • Weight gain or increase in body fat around your waist.
  • Hair thinning or loss.

Changes in bleeding are normal as you near menopause. There are also other common causes of bleeding in the years after menopause. The decline in your body’s estrogen levels can cause tissues lining the vagina to become thin, dry, and less elastic. Sometimes this lining can become broken or easily inflamed and bleed. It can also become injured during sex or even during a pelvic exam.

Once you’ve reached menopause, though, you should report any bleeding that you have to your doctor. Uterine bleeding after menopause could be a sign of other health problems. Other things that can cause abnormal bleeding include:

What can help my symptoms?

  • Hot Flashes. A hot environment, eating or drinking hot or spicy foods, alcohol, or caffeine, and stress can bring on hot flashes. Try to avoid these triggers. Dress in layers and keep a fan in your home or workplace. Regular exercise might also bring relief from hot flashes and other symptoms. Ask your doctor about taking an antidepressant medicine. There is proof that these can be helpful for some women.
  • Vaginal Dryness. Use an over-the-counter vaginal lubricant. There are also prescription estrogen replacement creams that your doctor might give you. If you have spotting or bleeding while using estrogen creams, you should see your doctor.
  • Problems Sleeping. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. But, avoid a lot of exercise close to bedtime. Also avoid alcohol, caffeine, large meals, and working right before bedtime. You might want to drink something warm, such as herb tea or warm milk, before bedtime. Try to keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. Avoid napping during the day and try to go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
  • Memory problems. Ask your doctor about mental exercises you can do to improve your memory. Try to get enough sleep and be physically active.
  • Mood swings. Try to get enough sleep and be physically active. Ask your doctor about relaxation exercises you can do. Ask your doctor about taking an antidepressant medicine. There is proof that these can be helpful. Think about going to a support group for women who are going through the same thing as you, or getting counseling to talk through your problems and fears.

Premature Menopause

Premature menopause is cessation of menstrual periods before the age of 40 — whether it is natural or induced. Some women have premature menopause because of:

  • family history (genes)
  • medical treatments, such as surgery to remove the ovaries
  • cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation to the pelvic area

Having premature menopause puts a woman at more risk for osteoporosis later in life. It also may be a source of great distress, since many women younger than 40 still want to have children. Women who still want to become pregnant should talk with their doctor about donor egg programs.

Postmenopause

The term postmenopause refers to all the years beyond menopause. It is the period past the time at which you have not had a period for 12 months in a row — whether your menopause was natural or induced.

I will be having a hysterectomy to remove both my uterus and my ovaries, and I am only 37. Will, I go into menopause?

Sometimes, younger women need a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries) to treat health problems such as endometriosis or cancer. After your surgery, you will enter into what is known as induced or surgical menopause. This is menopause that happens to your body right away, and it is brought on by the surgery. You will no longer have periods. Since your ovaries will be removed, you may have many menopausal symptoms right away, instead of gradually. You can talk to your doctor about how to best manage these symptoms.

Women who have a hysterectomy, but have their ovaries left in place, will not have induced menopause because their ovaries will continue to make hormones. But, because their uterus is removed, they no longer have their periods and they cannot bear children. They also might have hot flashes since the surgery can sometimes disturb the blood supply to the ovaries. Later on, they also might have natural menopause a year or two earlier than expected.

Problem Symptoms – Depression and Irritability

Many women in perimenopause and menopause feel depressed and irritable. Some researchers believe that the decrease in estrogen triggers changes in your brain, causing depression. Others think that other symptoms you’re having, such as sleep problems, hot flashes, night sweats, and fatigue cause these feelings.

Or, it could be a combination of hormone changes and symptoms. But these symptoms also can have causes that are unrelated to menopause. If you are having these symptoms, and you think they are interfering with your quality of life, it is important to discuss them with your doctor. Talk openly with your doctor about the other things going on in your life that might be adding to your feelings. Other things that could cause depression and/or anxiety. If you need treatment for these symptoms, you and your doctor can work together to find a treatment that is best for you.

Who needs treatment for the symptoms of menopause?

For some women, many of their menopause symptoms will go away over time without treatment. Other women will choose treatment for their symptoms and to prevent bone loss that can happen near menopause. Treatments may include prescription drugs that contain types of hormones that your ovaries stop making around the time of menopause.

Hormone therapy can contain estrogen alone or estrogen with progestin (for a woman who still has her uterus or womb). Estrogen therapy usually is taken by pill, skin patch, as a cream or gel, or with an intrauterine device (IUD) or vaginal ring. How estrogen is taken can depend on its purpose. For instance, a vaginal ring or cream can ease vaginal dryness, leakage of urine, or vaginal or urinary infections, but does not relieve hot flashes. If you want to prevent bone loss, you also should talk to your doctor about medicines other than hormone therapy that can help your bones.

How else can I help my symptoms?

  • Hot Flashes. A hot environment, eating or drinking hot or spicy foods, alcohol, or caffeine, and stress can bring on hot flashes. Try to avoid these triggers. Dress in layers and keep a fan in your home or workplace. Regular exercise might also bring relief from hot flashes and other symptoms. Ask your doctor about taking an antidepressant medicine. There is proof that these can be helpful for some women.
  • Vaginal Dryness. Use an over-the-counter vaginal lubricant. There are also prescription estrogen replacement creams that your doctor might give you. If you have spotting or bleeding while using estrogen creams, you should see your doctor.
  • Problems Sleeping. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. But, avoid a lot of exercise close to bedtime. Also avoid alcohol, caffeine, large meals, and working right before bedtime. You might want to drink something warm, such as herb tea or warm milk, before bedtime. Try to keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. Avoid napping during the day and try to go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
  • Memory problems. Ask your doctor about mental exercises you can do to improve your memory. Try to get enough sleep and be physically active.
  • Mood swings. Try to get enough sleep and be physically active. Ask your doctor about relaxation exercises you can do. Ask your doctor about taking an antidepressant medicine. There is proof that these can be helpful. Think about going to a support group for women who are going through the same thing as you, or getting counseling to talk through your problems and fears.
What about natural treatments for menopause?

Some women decide to take herbal, natural, or plant-based products to help their symptoms. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Soy. This contains phytoestrogens (estrogen-like substances from a plant). But, there is no proof that soy–or other sources of phytoestrogens–really do relieve hot flashes. And the risks of taking soy, especially the pills and powders, are not known. You can get soy from foods too. Soy food products include tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and soy nuts. These soy products are more likely to work on mild hot flashes. Plants that produce protesterone.

More treatments for menopause that have been known to provide some relief.

  • Other sources of phytoestrogens. These include herbs such as black cohosh, a member of the buttercup family, wild yam, dong quai, and valerian root.
  • Bioidentical hormone therapy. Some women visit alternative medicine doctors and get a prescription for these products, which are made from different plant hormones that are like those in a woman’s body. Each prescription is hand-mixed, and the dose can vary from patient to patient.

Products that come from plants may sound like they are more natural or safer than other forms of hormones, but there is no proof they really are. There also is no proof that they are better at helping symptoms of menopause. Make sure to discuss herbal products with your doctor before taking them. You also should tell your doctor if you are taking any other medicines since some of the herbal products can be harmful to you with other drugs.

Marilyn Clinton

Marilyn Clinton

Mary is a single parent and writer. She likes to share her family adventures, and tips for managing a busy family and a full-time job.
Marilyn Clinton

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