Menopause: What it Means and Symptoms
What does it mean?
The menopause (or change of life) is when a woman’s fertility cycle winds down and finally stops. The ovaries gradually stop producing the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, while periods become erratic before finally ceasing. The process can take months or even years so it’s important to continue contraception until your doctor thinks it’s no longer necessary.
Signs that the menopause is starting
• Change in periods. Timing will be haphazard and they may be lighter or heavier than usual.
• Hot flushes, which can happen several times a day. They are often accompanied by sweating, particularly at night.
• Uncomfortable sexual intercourse. The lack of oestrogen can dry the lining of the vagina. Apply a cream or jelly (such as KY Jelly) which can be bought from a chemist.
• Palpitations (as though the heart is beating faster and louder).
• Emotional upset or depression.
• Hair thinning. Ask your hairdresser for advice. A new style might disguise the problem. If hair thinning is severe, discuss Minoxidil treatment with your doctor. It’s expensive and must be applied to the scalp every day, but it may restore hair growth.
• Thin and fragile bones (a condition known as osteoporosis). You could be more at risk of breaking bones if you fall. Some women also ‘shrink’ in size slightly.
How to cope
See your doctor who might recommend a course of Hormone Replacement Therapy. HRT controls hot flushes and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, heart attack and cancer of the ovary. You will continue to have regular monthly bleeding similar to periods and the risk of breast cancer may be increased. Your doctor should be able to advise you without referral to a specialist.
• Talk to your partner about any sexual problems you may have. Lack of communication is one of the main reasons for marital trouble.
• Take more exercise. Swimming, unlike tennis, shouldn’t endanger any brittle bones. And exercise strengthens your bones and may help to cure depression.
• Confide in similarly aged friends who may be going through the same experience.