What is menopause?
Menopause is the period that marks the end of menstrual cycle in women and this means that they can no longer get pregnant naturally again during this period. Menopause occurs in women between the age of 45 and 55 and before this begins, menstrual cycle becomes irregular over few months or years due to reduction in the production of oestrogen and progesterone hormones by the ovaries.
What causes menopause in women?
The ovaries of a woman produce estrogen and progesterone which are the hormones that controls the release of egg and menstruations. When there is decrease in the productions of these hormones, menstration will stop and this is when menopause begins.
Menopause occurs naturally as part of ageing and it can also be caused when the ovaries are removed through surgery or when a particular type of chemotherapy damages the ovaries.
Meaning of Perimenopause and postmenopause
This occurs when the ovaries begins to produce low amount of estrogens. Perimenopause begin several years before menopause and some women experience it during their 40s while others experience perimenopause during their 30s. Perimenopause last for an average of 5 to 10 years and during this period there is irregular occurrence of menstrual cycle and it ends when menstruation does not occur for 12 consecutive months.
This is the period after you do not have menstruation for about 12 months and more. During this period the symptoms you experience at menopause becomes to ease and you won’t be at risk of unplanned pregnancy again. Some women experience postmenopause when they are 50 years while others start when they are 60 years and above.
Symptoms of menopause
You may begin to experience the following symptoms when you are close to menopausal age (perimenopausal stage):
- Irregular menstruation
- Heavier or lighter menstrual flow
- Lower fertility
When you do not experience menstruation for about 12 consecutive months, the symptoms you may likely have include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Anxiety and depression
- Urinary tract infection
- Loss of memory
- Sleep disorder
- Dry skin eyes or mouth
- Sore breasts
- Joint pains
- Loss of hair
- Fluctuation in sex drive
- Racing heart
- Weight gain
Other complications that arises during menopause may include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Vaginal atrophy
- Urinary disorder
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Breast cancer
Diagnosis of menopause
When you are about 30, 40 or 50 years and you experience any of the above symptoms you might likely be transiting to menopausal stage of your life.
Based on the symptoms you are experiencing and your medical history, your doctor may order for your blood sample in other to carry out the following test to detect menopause:
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone level Test (FSH) : this test measure the level of follicle-stimulating hormone in your blood. FSH helps to enhance the growth of eggs in the ovaries and maintain menstrual cycle. If your follicle stimulating hormone is high then this indicates that you have started menopause.
- Anti-Mullerian Hormone Test (AMH): this test procedure was recently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It measures the level of anti-mullerian hormone in the blood. Anti-mullerian hormones are produced by the reproductive tissues and this test helps your doctor to evaluate your ovarian function and detect menopause.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test (TSH): this test helps to measure the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone in your blood. Women who have reached menopause stage will have low amount of thyroid hormone in their bloods when they get tested for TSH.
- Estradiol Test: estradiol is a form of estrogens that stimulates the release of eggs from the ovaries and regulate menstrual cycle. When the level of estradiol is low in your blood this indicates that you are already in menopausal age.
Treatment of menopause
Menopause is not an infection but a natural occurrence that happens during your lifetime. The symptoms that menopause brings up might be undesirable and disheartening. However, menopause can be well managed with treatment that relieve the symptoms you experience.
The treatment options for menopause include:
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: this treatment helps to regulate and replace hormones (Estrogen and progesterone) that the body is not producing again. There are varieties of hormones therapy and include skin patches, gels, implants and tablets. Hormone therapy helps to relieve the symptoms of menopause but the disadvantage of this treatment option is that it increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, liver disease and breast cancer. Therefore talk to your health care provider and let them evaluate the benefits as well as the risk factors to you before choosing hormone therapy as treatments.
- The use of oestrogen cream and lubricant for vaginal dryness
- Psychotherapy and use of antidepressants: a psychotherapist will help you to learn more about your mood, behaviour and thoughts through verbal conversation that will relieve anxiety and depression. Antidepressants are medications that are used to ease the symptoms of anxiety disorder, depression and other mental illnesses. Talk to your doctor before using antidepressants so that you will get a comprehensive prescription and better result.
Other treatment options that can help to relieve the symptoms of menopause include:
- Engaging in more physical activities like jogging, yoga and deep breathing
- Maintenance of a healthy weight to prevent complications such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes
- Avoiding of tobacco use
- Reduction in alcohol intake
- Development and maintenance of healthy diets
- Maintenance of good sleeping habits
- Counseling to manage anxiety depression and mood swings
- Engaging in more social activities
What are the foods that i should eat during menopause?
The following and list of foods that help to relieve the symptoms of menopause:
- Fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinachy, apples and pawpaw
- Whole grains: examples of grains that are beneficial during menopause include oatmeal, whole cornmeal, wheat bread, barley and brown rice
- Dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and cheese
- Proteinous food like meat fish and egg
- Phytoestrogen rich foods such as blueberries, barley, peanuts and black tea
The foods mentioned above contains chemical compounds that stimulates the production of oestrogen and progesterone as well as antioxidant that prevents health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, liver problems and diabetes.
What food should I avoid during menopause?
These foods may contribute to the worsening of symptoms and development of other complication and they include:
- Food with high salt concentrations
- Sugary foods
- Spicy foods