It’s inevitable, ladies. Whether it’s just around the corner, or still years down the road, women the world over know the inescapable “change” is looming out there somewhere in their future. As if living with a monthly period for most of your adult life, giving birth, and enduring constant social scrutiny are not enough burdens for the female species to bear, Mother Nature has yet another fun surprise in store for us as we reach our 40’s and 50’s.
Menopause. The very word strikes fear and an impending sense of dread into the hearts of those of us who have no yet reached our golden years. Will it be as awful as we imagine? Will we be prone to night sweats and hot flashes that rival a day spent in the Sahara? Will our emotions run rampant like they did during pregnancy? What will it do to our sex drive? Our weight?
One of the reasons women tend to fear menopause is the simple fact that openly discussing it, or what to expect when it happens, have been considered somewhat taboo in most societies. Menopause has always been a condition to be whispered about behind closed doors; not something women have been made to feel comfortable discussing. Despite what society may make you feel, menopause is a biological process that all women will experience at some point. Our bodies are miraculous, complex and intricate machines and these are things to be proud of! So, allow us to break down some social barriers here. We’re going to talk about menopause and we’re going to do it boldly and without self-conscious censorship.
What You Need to Know About Menopause
Menopause is defined as the end of a female’s fertile life. It is the period of time that takes place immediately following the end of her period, after which time she can no longer reproduce. While women may rejoice at the idea of no longer dealing with a monthly period, they simultaneously shudder at the side effects menopause may still induce during this transition phase.
The infamous hot flashes are perhaps the most common symptom of menopause, along with mood swings and night sweats. This is simply your body’s way of reacting to and compensating for fluctuating hormone levels and, unpleasant though it may be, these are all completely natural and largely unavoidable. Other side effects and their degree of severity may vary from woman to woman, but could include things such as hair loss or irregular hair growth, a noticeable decrease in libido accompanied by vaginal dryness, depression or feelings of loss, weight gain and erratic periods. Fun times, right?
If you find yourself experiencing extreme symptoms that become more than can be comfortably managed with over the counter medications, there is also the option to undergo hormone replacement therapy. There are a couple different types of Hormone Replacement tablets available today. Patches, tablets, gels and creams are all available to help you cope as the body goes through it’s cycle. Systemic hormone therapy and low dose vaginal estrogen application can be applied in the form of topical creams or gels, and your specific symptoms will help dictate which type is best for you. In general, systemic hormone therapy is used to treat hot flashes and night sweats, while the vaginal estrogen application is more effective for treating vaginal symptoms such as dryness, or urinary tract infections.
Of course, the length of menopause will vary greatly among women as well. Just as girls start their periods at different ages and women give birth in different ways so too will menopause be a unique experience for you. It is not uncommon to begin noticing symptoms in your late 30’s to early 40’s. Those symptoms may fluctuate some, but will likely last anywhere from two years to as long as a decade. There are a number of medications your doctor may prescribe to help you deal with some of these symptoms, should they become severe enough. Also, we highly encourage you to be open with your doctor about your symptoms, regardless of their severity, because many of these things can also be indicative of other diseases and illnesses, such as cancer.
Isn’t being a woman fun?