Menstruation. The ‘necessary evil’ in every woman’s life. And if you thought easing into it as a young girl wasn’t so pleasant, well, bidding goodbye to it isn’t a piece of cake either!
You and your body will need time to accept the new normal. And if you’re wondering as to why Aunt Flo suddenly decides to stop visiting when women turn 50, and don’t mind some science-speak, here’s why it happens.
Simply put, menopause is the time of life when menstrual periods end and on an average, most women in the United States go through menopause at around 51 years of age. In a woman’s body, the ovaries produce the female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone that control periods and many other processes. And around middle age, the ovaries start making lesser and lesser of these hormones, making periods irregular at first for a few months, until they finally stop altogether.
The time leading up to menopause is known as perimenopause. It lasts for an average of 3-5 years and this is when the body begins to show hormonal and biological changes, a few of which are uncomfortable and will need some management and getting used to.
What to expect
The symptoms of Menopause and Perimenopause vary greatly in women, with some women experiencing mild to no symptoms and others going through severe to disabling ones. Here are a few of the commonly experienced ones:
- Irregular periods— You can have irregular periods for many months to years before your periods finally stop. It’s important to remember that any bleeding that happens after a year of no periods is abnormal and warrants a doctor’s evaluation. So does extremely heavy or prolonged bleeding during perimenopause.
- Vaginal dryness— As your hormone levels fall, there’s a decrease in the vagina’s natural lubricants leaving the vaginal lining dry, thin, and less elastic. This might make sex uncomfortable and makes a woman more susceptible to urinary and vaginal infections.
- Hot flashes— A symptom widely associated with menopause, a hot flash involves feeling suddenly hot, flushed, and uncomfortable in the face and neck for a few minutes. Hot flashes are also a result of a change in estrogen levels which changes the way blood vessels relax and contract.
- Sleep disorders, Irritability, and Depression — Poor sleep caused by night-time hot flashes can lead to mood swings, irritability, and a risk of developing depression.
- Osteoporosis —A drop in estrogen increases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that results in the thinning of bones that in turn increases the risk of fractures, especially in the hips or spine.
- Cardiovascular disease — Menopause also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in women.
Making the transition easier
This period of extraordinary change in a woman’s life can get a tad overwhelming at times. But instead of fighting these changes, a better approach is to gently support your body and help it ease gracefully into its new normal.
Studies suggest that simple measures like regular exercise, not smoking, limiting one’s caffeine intake, and giving the body enough Calcium and Vitamin D can reduce the uncomfortable symptoms and greatly improve the quality of life during these tough years.
And as women from around the world have also learned, sometimes what can also work, is a natural way to help the body take the pressure off itself with herbs like black cohosh, red clover, lavender, sage, etc., that have been offering relief to women for a couple of thousand years now, in various brews and concoctions.
And today, when you can harness the wisdom of both traditional and modern health systems to improve the way you feel every day, here’s to successfully riding this wave of change with positivity and comfort!