Menopause can occur at a young age but how many women actually realize this?
Menopause is a major part of womanhood. Some women embrace it; some struggle with it. But it’s also a transition that tends to be under discussed - both by the women it affects and by health professionals - which means that many women do not realize that some women can start the perimenopause as early as 40 years of age, or younger.
It's important that all women, whatever their age, are medically informed about menopause and are empowered to approach it positively.
What actually is menopause?
Menopause happens when a woman's ovaries cease producing eggs, which leads to low estrogen levels. Estrogen is the hormone that controls the reproductive cycle.
A woman is in menopause when she has not had a period for more than 12 months.
What can cause menopause?
Genetics, lifestyle, chromosome defects, autoimmune disease, and epilepsy are some of the known causes for menopause.
However, it is largely still relat relatively unknown as to exactly what triggers menopause. What is important, however, is being alert to the many symptoms and knowing what steps to take next.
What are the symptoms?
All women are different, which means the symptoms for menopause can differ between women. Generally, however, women should be aware of the following changes to their body:
- Irregular period patterns
- Missed periods
- Different flow
- Iregular hormone cycles
- Depression spikes
- Hot flashes like panic attacks or heart palpitations
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful sex
- Night sweats
- Decreased libido
What are some treatments?
Treatments range from prescribed medication to more holistic methods that target the mind over the body. Again, the effectiveness of treatments may vary from women to women. Treatments may include:
- Oral contraceptive
- Menopausal hormone therapy
- Very low doses of hormones to supplement estrogen levels
- Antidepressant drugs
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Professional counselling or a psychiatrist.
Menopause can not be reversed, which means there may be some anxiety for women who might go through an early menopause because it may lead to unwanted fertility issues. However, it is important to remember there are other avenues for having children, including adoption, egg donation, and surrogate options.
How can women manage their menopause?
Knowledge is power, so it is is important when it comes to coping with menopause. There is a diverse range of literature available on the topic, but it is also important to broach concerns with a qualified health professional, whether that is a GP or a gynaecologist.
As with many health-related issues, being in tune with one's own body can also help women understand – and manage – the effects of menopause. There are many ways to track health, from an old fashioned paper calendar to more high-tech methods such as apps. Women can then present this data to a health professional for potential review and diagnosis that is personalised to them, their health and their bodies.
Menopause symptoms can affect mental and physical health, so having a positive approach to wellbeing can at times lessen complications. Women can coinsider putting in place methods to alleviate mental strain, such as a good night’s sleep, adequate exercise, meditation, yoga, healthy eating and reduced alcohol consumption.
Finally, opening up conversations about menopause is a great way to learn more and identify some of the tangible support and options available. Women can also speak with further women about meopause - friends, siblings, partners, colleagues and importantly further women who may have experienced it. Speaking with one's mother about menopause may also be valuable in determining the age a mother went through menopause as this can at times relate to a daughter's experience.
Being part of an informed community can also help women feel more supported. Shared knowledge and experiences can help with overcoming challenges. Also, talking through issues can sometimes help lighten burdens, dissipate worries, and unite through shared knowledge and experiences.
Menopause is a key time in womanhood when women supporting women is especially key.