Breaking news: Menopause is not a mythological creature that possesses a woman making her moody and irrational. Also, it is certainly not caused by her lifelong battle of dealing with ‘men’; in fact, it results from the demise of her dear old monthly visitor which she has always had mixed feelings about.
Menopause is a naturally occurring change in every woman’s body – the stage when her menstrual cycle discontinues and ends her reproductive journey. Periods start getting irregular and eventually stop, it may happen all at once or over time. After menopause, a woman can no longer conceive children. It does not have to be prevented or looked down upon; it is an essential aspect of a woman’s physical development as a result of physiological changes in the ageing process. It can also be induced surgically in women who have their ovaries removed (oophorectomy) with or without the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). Menopause most often occurs between the ages of 45-55; premature menopause is that which occurs before the age of 40, irrespective of the cause. Menopause is complete when a woman has not had a period for 1 year, this is called post menopause.
The ‘periods’ where it all began
Under the influence of pituitary gland hormones FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinising hormone), the ovaries release the egg every month and secrete the sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones act on the lining of the womb preparing it for pregnancy in case the egg gets fertilized by the sperm. In cases where fertilization does not take place, the lining of the womb is shed, which we know as “periods”.
The end of the reproductive era
As part of the ageing process, the eggs or the oocytes in the ovary gradually get depleted. This causes an increase in the levels of FSH and LH and a decrease in the levels of oestrogen. The oocyte depletion with the resulting hormonal changes leads to the end of menstruation and the absence of fertility in women. It is the decreased circulating level of oestrogen which is responsible for the physical changes that happen during menopause.
Menopause can be a difficult experience for some women and slightly easier for others, symptoms vary but are known to last up to 5 or more years. Hot flashes, weight gain, depression and mood swings are just a few of these unkind symptoms. The ideal approach to menopause would be preventive. Staying aware both from external research and regular internal checkups would certainly help ease into a positive transition. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and proper nutrition goes a long way for keeping symptoms in check. Although every woman has her own individual battle with it, here are some practical measures that can be beneficial:
– Hydration: Adequate water intake will ensure optimal functioning of all organs and prevent hot flashes.
– Yoga and meditation: Strongly recommended by medical professionals for improving cognitive, hormonal and physical wellbeing.
– Checking for deficiencies: Address any probable deficiencies, such as Vitamin D and Iron.
– Optimum fat intake: Omega-3 fatty acids have proven to keep menopausal symptoms at bay. A fatty acid profile test before taking any supplementation is advised.
Childbirth is a beautiful miracle yet a taxing journey for which a woman prepares all her life – since the time she is a mere teenager up to the age when she wants to relax more than anything. Although men have not contributed to women’s ‘men’struation or ‘men’opause in anyway, a little more mindfulness and consideration from the opposite gender would help.
~Nida A. Aziz
(this article was featured in Fitmag Nov 2016.)