By definition, menopause is a component of natural and gradually occurring process where ovaries in females produce lesser female hormones. Estrogen and progesterone, hormones responsible for menstruation and reproduction gradually decreases until finally disappearing. The process silently takes place among most women around 40 years of age. During this time, the periods become less regular and this stage is termed as perimenopause or premenopause. The processes taking place during menopause is completed at around age 51 among most women. But some women do undergo this stage earlier than others due to premature ovarian failure, cancer therapy or the surgical removal of both ovaries.
The experience is different for each woman. The variety of symptoms is caused by alteration in the levels of hormones which may last for a few months to a year or more. Some women may experience slight discomfort only while others report worse symptoms. When the physiologic changes seem to bother a woman, it is best to seek medical consultation for properly managing the condition. Symptoms of menopause are:
- Irregular periods. This is usually the first sign. The irregularity varies among women too. Changes in menses for some women are just manifested by a lighter flow than they normally have while others report heavier blood flow for a longer time. The frequency may increase too and spotting in between menses may also be experienced.
- Hot flashes. A hot flash is described as a sudden rush of heat in the upper body or all over the body.
- Bladder and vaginal complaints. During this time, women who are sexually active may experience a painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness which is associated with itching and burning. Infections of the vagina seem to be more common during this time around. Since the distance from the vagina to the bladder is very short among women, women are also at higher risk to contracting urinary tract infections or problems in controlling urination.
- Changes in feelings towards sexual activity. Feelings about sexual activities change as women undergo menopause. Some lose interest due to a painful intercourse as lubrication is decreased during this time. There are also feelings of being free from getting pregnant at last. However, women should be educated that unless no menstrual period is noted for a year then that’s the time that she is free to have sexual intercourse without using any birth control.
- Sleeping problems. Women do complain of not being able to get a good night sleep during this time. Some finds it hard to fall asleep easily while others get up too early.
- Mood changes. Depression is NOT a symptom of menopause. But an irritable mood may be noticed from women undergoing these changes which may be caused by stress, fatigue and family problems.