Menopause in women is the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It is diagnosed after the cessation of menstruation for more than 12 months. It is a natural biological process that occurs in women that are in their 40s or 50s.
Before menopause sets in, a woman’s period typically becomes irregular with shorter or longer duration, lighter or heavier amount of menstrual blood flow.
Sign and Symptoms of Menopause
The signs might begin to manifest even before the menstrual cycle becomes irregular. They include;
- hot flashes
- interrupted sleeping
- mood changes: easy irritability, depression,anxiety
- joint soreness and stiffness
- back pain
- vaginal dryness
- painful sexual intercourse
- reduced interest in sex
- night sweats
Causes of Menopause in Women
The general causes of menopause in women include;
- Age: menopause typically occurs in women aged around 48 years in Nigeria. There is a decline in the hormones regulating menstruation and the ovaries stop producing eggs.
- Premature ovarian failure: generally, about 1% of women have premature ovarian failure. The ovaries exhaust their eggs and it results in menopause before the age of 40.
- Hysterectomy: removal of the womb leads to cessation of menstruation.
- Smoking: this leads to an early onset of menopause in women. Smoking affects the hormones that regulate menstruation. It also makes menopausal symptoms more severe.
Some of the complications associated with menopause include;
- Osteoporosis: This condition causes bones to become brittle and weak, leading to an increased risk of fractures.
- Urinary incontinence: this is the involuntary release of urine due to the laxity of the walls of the vagina and urethra. The integrity of the vagina and urethra is maintained by estrogen hormone which is low in menopausal women.
- Weight gain: many women gain weight during the menopausal transition and after menopause because of a reduced rate in the body’s metabolism.
- Cardiovascular disease: a reduction in the level of estrogen leads to an increase in the chances of having heart and cardiovascular diseases
Treatment of Menopause in Women
Menopause doesn’t require treatment. Symptomatic management is what is usually required.
- Calcium and vitamin D supplement can be used to strengthen the bones.
- Vaginal lubricant: water based vaginal lubricant can be used to ease vaginal dryness especially during sexual intercourse.
- Ensure you eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol use: caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep and trigger a hot flash. Women affected can limit caffeine to mornings and avoid alcohol in the evening.
- Exercise for an hour, 3 or more times a week to help reduce the hot flashes. Exercises such as walking, swimming and dancing are very good options. Kegels exercise (repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor) can also help increase the tone of the pelvic muscle wall. This helps to tighten the vagina and helps reduce/ treat urinary incontinence which is a common problem in menopausal women.
- Avoid stress as this can worsen the menopausal symptoms.
- Get enough sleep: its important you sleep for 7-8 hours everyday. This keeps the body and mind in good shape.