Symptoms, causes, and, management
Menopause is a natural life stage, not a disease, and managing menopausal symptoms is only one part of the bigger picture that encompasses women as they transition through these midlife changes.
The term ‘menopause’ is used to describe the time in a woman’s life when she has not had a menstrual period for 12 months. The years leading to menopause are termed ‘perimenopause’, whereas the years after the last menstrual period are referred to as ‘post-menopause’. This transition is associated with reproductive hormone levels fluctuating, causing bodily changes.
The symptoms of menopause are due to changes in reproductive hormone levels in your body, usually occurring in the time before menopause begins (called perimenopause).
Oestrogen and progesterone are hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. When the amount of eggs in the ovaries start to dramatically decline, you will start experiencing changes to your menstrual period, such as cycle length (shorter or longer) and heavier or lighter periods.
Other symptoms can include
As perimenopause symptoms can last for four to six years, make sure you speak to your doctor if you are having difficulty coping with any symptoms.
Menopause is a natural part of the ageing process for women, caused by your ovaries running out of eggs to release during your menstrual cycle (ovulation). This leads to changes in your body’s reproductive hormones – progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone.
However, menopause may also occur spontaneously if you have:
Menopause is a normal transition that affects every woman naturally between the ages of 45 and 55. However, early menopause may sometimes occur before the age of 45 years, while premature menopause may occur before the age of 40 if your ovaries naturally fail to produce eggs, or as a result of induced spontaneous menopause.
If you’re a smoker, menopause can occur between one to four years earlier than for non-smokers.
As a woman approaches menopause, her ovarian function declines, as does production of oestrogen and progesterone. It can take 2–7 years to transit menopause, and this stage of fluctuating hormones (and, hence, irregular cycles) is recognised by many as a time of ‘hormonal chaos’. During this time, up to 80 per cent of women will suffer from both physical and emotional menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, sweats, anxiety and insomnia. The severity of these hot flushes and other symptoms will vary from person to person, and women may be looking for remedies or natural medicines to help manage the transition.
Menopause can affect you emotionally and physically. Regardless of whether your symptoms are mild or severe, how you manage depends on your stage of life, relationships and overall wellbeing.
Your doctor may recommend certain therapies to help manage your symptoms by replacing decreasing levels of hormones.
You may also try managing your symptoms by layering clothing, keeping cool water or a fan handy, and avoiding certain foods that can trigger flushing, such as hot and spicy dishes, alcohol and caffeine. If you’re looking for help with your flushes and sweats, you may also find relief through evidence based natural medicines, acupuncture, hypnosis or mindfulness techniques.
While it’s helpful to exercise regularly to improve your bone strength, heart health and to manage your weight, make sure you time exercise for when it is not too hot, so it doesn’t affect your flushes.
Eating a diet full of phytoestrogens – including foods with soy, tofu and wholegrains – can mimic oestrogen activity in your body.
If you are a smoker, quitting will help reduce your risk of certain conditions and will maintain your bone, heart and cardiovascular health.
References available on request.