They say life begins at 40 but being a middle-aged woman is about much more than just maintaining the stamina to stay out all night. Your life, body and hormones are changing drastically during this phase. The estrogen levels in your body begin to decrease, your ovaries stop releasing eggs, your fertility window gradually closes and your menstrual cycle becomes irregular. It’s time to say hello to the inescapable reality that is menopause.
This can happen between the ages of 45 and 55.
How do I know I’m nearing menopause?
The years - or months - leading to the beginning of menopause have many signs. The most prominent of all being an irregular menstrual cycle. The extent of these symptoms may vary from woman to woman, but in likelihood, a woman nearing menopause will experience an irregular period (some women might go several months without a period, before it starts again). Eventually though, the menstrual cycle will stop completely.
In addition to an irregular menstrual cycle, a woman may experience other symptoms that indicate menopause. Here are a few signs to look out for:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep problems
- Slowed metabolism
- Loss of breast fullness
- Weight gain
- Changes in libido or sexual desire
- Mood changes
While these symptoms may be the normal indications of approaching menopause, an official menopause diagnosis is only made when a woman has gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
Menopause is a natural biological process, however, it can begin earlier for some women.
What causes early menopause?
When a woman begins to show the above symptoms before the age of 40, this is considered premature menopause. Early menopause usually happens before a woman turns 45. Premature menopause is a condition where a woman goes through menopause at an earlier age than is typically expected. Certain medical conditions, medication, genetics and lifestyle habits can cause early menopause. These may include:
- Undergoing surgery that removes the uterus or the ovaries
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Autoimmune diseases
- Genetic disorders
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Can menopause be treated?
The simple answer is, yes. Different women may experience menopause symptoms at varying severities. When the symptoms are acute and start to affect an individual's quality of life, hormone therapy may be an effective treatment.
During menopause the ovaries no longer produce the required amount of estrogen and progesterone, hormonal therapy (also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy - HRT) is designed to boost these decreasing hormones. This has a direct impact on reducing the symptoms associated with menopause.
Like many other treatments, there are risks associated with HRT. This is why it is imperative for a woman experiencing menopause to consult a qualified medical practitioner. Self-medicating is not advised as it may cause more harm than good. For effective results, hormone therapy should be tailored to an individual’s health status, and this requires the expertise of a medical professional.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have about menopause and the necessary treatment. For a full women’s health consultation, click here to find a Marie Stopes clinic near you.