As women approach their late forties and early fifties, it’s common for symptoms of perimenopause and menopause to begin. And while it is a natural stage of a woman’s life, menopause can occasionally cause many uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms.
Let’s take a look at what is happening in the body during menopause and ways to continue to thrive during the menopausal transition.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle. Monthly periods cease and there are no eggs left in the ovaries. It is accompanied by declining levels of oestrogen and progesterone and when oestrogen levels are lower, the menstrual cycle starts becoming irregular and eventually stops.
In addition, these fluctuations in hormone levels mean your body may exhibit various physical and emotional changes.
Perimenopause refers to a transitional state in the months or years leading up to menopause and is triggered by the ovaries slowly producing less and less oestrogen. Perimenopause usually lasts three to four years but can last up to 10 years.
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when menstruation has stopped for at least one full year. It marks the end of a women’s fertile years as the ovaries are no longer releasing eggs. On average, women enter menopause at the age of 51 years.
Postmenopause refers to the years after menopause – hormone levels are low but constant. Postmenopause continues for the rest of your life.
Every woman’s experience of menopause is unique. Some women experience very few changes and only minimal discomfort that can be easily managed with a few lifestyle adjustments – like wearing all-natural fibre clothing and sipping cold water when a hot flush occurs. However others may experience an array of menopausal discomforts.
Changes to your menstrual cycle are often the first sign of menopause. Bleeding may be lighter or heavier than usual and your period may be longer or shorter than before. Your once very regular cycle has become erratic. Talk to your healthcare practitioner if you are concerned about changes to your menstrual cycle.
Hot Flushes & Night Sweats
Hot flushes are considered the most common symptom of menopause. They are so common that as many as 80% of women experience hot flushes in menopause. Sometimes called vasomotor symptoms, hot flushes often result in a sudden sensation of heat in the face, chest and head. This can be followed by perspiration, redness (flushing) and sometimes chills.
Scientists aren’t sure why women experience hot flushes but they are thought to be related to a drop in oestrogen that affects the part of the brain that regulates temperature – the hypothalamus.
How to keep cool during a hot flush
Mood changes and irritability
Mood swings are more common during perimenopause because hormone levels fluctuate erratically. When oestrogen levels drop, so do levels of serotonin – serotonin is the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that supports stable mood and feelings of well-being and happiness.
Mood changes in menopause tend to be transient and mood tends to settle in postmenopause when oestrogen levels stabilise at a new lower level. Small lifestyle adjustments like exercise and getting more sleep can help you manage these mood changes.
B complex vitamins are a great way to support psychological wellbeing and there are many adaptogenic botanicals that may help you rebalance both physically and mentally including rhodiola and ashwagandha. Other botanicals may be able to support a positive emotional outlook and mood, like saffron.
As oestrogen levels drop, women may find sleep quality is lower. About 40 percent of women in menopause would like to sleep better.
Sleeping better in Menopause
Other common symptoms are:
- Vaginal health and bladder concerns
- Dry skin
- Joint and muscle discomfort
- Decreased sexual desire and satisfaction
For references, click here.
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