Nrs Oke Ololade
A little while ago, I had some encounters with women with all sorts of complaints about menopause. Just recently, I had an interesting discussion with a woman who complained to me about how she feels with the whole of her body. Below is my dialogue with her:
Good Morning Mrs Angela and how are you Ma?
Mrs Angela: Nurse, good morning oooo, I am not fine at all my sister.
How old are you?
Mrs Angela: I am 45 years old
What is the problem?
Mrs Angela: Nurse, my body just dey pain me, like say i wan die, my stomach dey hurt me, something dey waka for my body, my mensis no dey come like before, i no fit bend down, i too dey forget things, sometimes my mood go just spoil, i no fit sleep for night.But i remember something, my self and my neighbour dey quarrel, i dey suspect say she do me juju.
At that point I could only laugh, then tried to convince her that her neighbour is not to blame; that the condition she’s going through is normal in a woman. I went further to tell her that she is about to experience menopausal state, that her particular current state is known as climacteric period when there is a natural decline in reproductive hormones usually occurs when a woman is in her 40s or 50s. I further explained some other things to her including type of foods to eat and then recommended that she sees a gynaecologist. Few days later, i checked on her and she affirmed that she was feeling a lot better.
Inspired by Mrs Angela’s experience, i decided to write on this topic for this week’s edition with the intention of creating awareness to every woman about the important things to know regarding menopause and also to prevent them from alluding to the erroneous ideologies as the primary cause of their painful experiences as seen in Mrs Angela’s case.
In Nigeria, there are about 1.5 million cases yearly. Perimenopause, or menopause transition which is also known as climacteric period, begins several years before menopause. It is the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen, the chemical hormone that regulates menstrual cycle. Usually, it starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in her 30s or even earlier. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last 1 to 2 years of perimenopause, this drop in estrogen speeds up. At this stage, many women have menopause symptoms.
The average length of perimenopause is 4 years, but for some women this stage may last only a few months or continue for 10 years. Perimenopause ends when a woman has gone 12 months without having her period.
Women in perimenopause have at least some of these symptoms:
One of the most common symptoms of menopause, hot flushes affect around 75% of menopausal women. Hot flushes normally appear as a rising redness on the chest, neck and face and can make you feel very overheated and sweaty.
Essentially, night sweats are hot flushes that occur at night and can disrupt sleep or can lead you to feeling unpleasant when you wake up.
Because menopause is all to do with the end of your reproductive years, your periods will start to reduce as your hormone production decreases. These can, therefore, become very erratic; sometimes you may get Premenstrual syndrome but with no bleeding.
With studies showing that mood swings affect 27% of menopausal women, this can feel like a more extreme version of the mood swings you may have experienced during your periods.
Your natural lubrication is maintained by your oestrogen levels, so as these begin to drop, you may notice vaginal dryness. This can cause some pain and discomfort, particularly during sex.
These are typically more common for women who experienced them during their periods. You can get some quick relief from head cutaneous stick or Kool ‘n’ soothe but if headaches persist then you may be suffering from migraines and should visit your doctor.
Any time in your life when your hormones drastically change can create the same symptoms; this is typically menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. So while breasts can become sore while on your period or pregnant, it can also happen during menopause.
It’s not quite as common as some of the other symptoms, but decreased levels of saliva during menopause can lead to what’s known as ‘burning mouth syndrome’. This is a hot sensation that affects the tongue, lips, cheeks and roof of the mouth.
Not all joint pain may signal arthritis, but the menopause is a common time for women to develop musculoskeletal symptoms.
Your digestive system is one of the most sensitive systems in your body and is often the first thing to get disrupted due to any major changes to your body (new medications, new foods, nervousness). Changes to hormones are another major body change that can lead to stomach upsets such as bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea and cramps.
Because of the erratic changes going on in your body during menopause, you may notice that you experience more electric shocks. It’s also common to get these just before a hot flush.
This can often be closely linked to stress and anxiety and presents itself as a feeling of tightness in the muscles, like a strain.
Affecting between 10 and 40 percent of menopausal women, gum problems are often accompanied by a metallic taste in the mouth.
It’s not overly common but a tingling sensation can appear on any part of the body. This is usually in the feet, hands, arms and legs.
Low oestrogen levels can also lead to low collagen levels. Collagen is responsible for keeping skin plump, firm and healthy so with less of it, you may notice that skin can become thing, dry and itchy. Be sure to combat this with an intensive moisturiser.
One of the more common symptoms of menopause, many women will notice a feeling of extreme tiredness.
Along with mood swings, menopausal women may notice increased feelings of anxiety. As many as one in three women may experience this during menopause. To help calm feelings of anxiety.
Because of all the changes going on in your body (as well as the other menopausal symptoms), you may also experience disrupted sleep and insomnia. If this persists, sleeping tablets may be able to help.
While most people are aware that a lot of men lose their hair as they get older, not everyone realises that women get this too. Menopause can act as an accelerator for hair loss, leaving it looking thinner.
The brain doesn’t work as hard during menopause because oestrogen is the hormone that pushes it to burn glucose for energy. With lower levels of oestrogen, you end up with a lack of focus and concentration.
Many women notice weight gain when they start taking the contraceptive pill, caused by a major change in hormones. The major change in hormones during menopause can also cause weight gain but this can usually be combated by healthy eating and exercising.
Lower oestrogen levels can overstimulate the nervous system and circulatory system, which can, in turn, lead to heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat.
Not only can the menopause make you sweat more, but the change in hormones can also actually change your natural scent.
Your hormones play a large role in contributing to your emotions and the fluctuation can lead to feelings of sadness or irritability.
In more extreme cases, this change in emotions can lead to depression. Depression is four times more likely to affect women of a menopausal age than a woman below the age of 45.
Menopausal women are actually more susceptible to panic attacks than almost anyone else.
Bone density can drop by up to 20% after the menopause, which puts you at risk of osteoporosis. Be sure to look after your bones with a healthy balanced diet and calcium supplements.
The symptoms of menopause vary from one woman to another, even if they belong to the same family. This is because age and the rate of decline of the ovary function differ tremendously across all women.Menopause isn’t a one-size-fits-all event. Some women reach natural menopause with little to no trouble. Consult a doctor (gynaecologist) to understand your symptoms and find ways to manage them if you feel they are interfering with your day-to-day functioning.
Several hormone therapies are used for the treatment of hot flashes and prevention of bone loss. But they may not be right for everyone. If you have certain medical conditions, hormonal therapy may not be suitable for you. Changes to your lifestyle may help relieve many of the symptoms without the need for hormonal intervention such lifestyle as:
- Stop smoking.
- Get more sleep and try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
- Drink less alcohol.
- Get to a healthy weight and stay there.
- Get enough calcium in your diet.
- Ask your doctor if you should take a multivitamin.
Finally, it is important to remember that Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life cycle. Stay in touch and get regular checkups with your doctor to cope with any menopause-related health problems effectively.