Settling down to a sedentary and dull life style at the age of forty is a practice among most women. This is a very wrong attitude, one must be mentally very active, cheerful and lead a purposeful life for they can contribute a lot to the society, says Dr. Indira Ramamurthi, Senior Gynaecologist.
The cessation of periods, which usually occurs in women around forty to fifty years of age is called Menopause. It is also known as the Silent Thief, because lots of changes occur in the blood vessels, heart, bone and fat metabolism which needs immediate medical attention.
Some women may menstruate till 50 or 52 years but that is unusual. Perimenopause is the time from 2 to 3 years before menopause to 2 to 3 years after menopause. If menopause occurs at the age of 35 years, it is abnormal and requires investigation and treatment.
The ovaries are responsible for the production of an ovum every month which, if fertilized leads to pregnancy . The ovary also produces female hormones called estrogen and progesterone which are responsible for menstruation. These hormones are necessary for the well-being and for female sexuality.
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The ovary has a predetermined number of follicles, from which the ova are released. When these follicles get exhausted menopause sets in. This is nature’s way of preventing pregnancy in advanced age.
Normally at the time of menopause, the periods get delayed by one or two months, followed by scanty bleeding for a few days. Gradually the periods may be delayed by 3, 5 or 6 months and stop after one or two years. This happens in the perimenopausal period. If the bleeding is excessive or prolonged, a gynaecologist should be consulted.
Annual check up of the uterus, breasts, ovaries and a ‘pap’ smear test is a must for all women above the age of 40.
Psychological and emotional problems:
Sudden fits of depression, inability to cope with household or office work, lack of self-confidence are some of the common symptoms. Sudden bursts of temper may result in problems with the husband or children and cause unhappiness. This emotional change requires understanding by the family.
Empty Nest Syndrome:
This is the time when children also grow up and leave home in pursuit of their career, and it is called as Empty Nest Syndrome. These feelings of loneliness may be worsened by physical and financial problems . Joint families with supportive younger members will be helpful.
Physical discomforts in the form of excessive sweating, especially in the nights ( night sweats), hot flushes- a feeling of heat in the face, neck and arms are common symptoms . Sleep disturbances may also occur. Due to decreased hormones there may be decreased sexuality and libido. The women may suddenly burst into tears without being able to understand what is happening to her.
There are changes in the reproductive and urinary systems, resulting in the dryness and burning in the vagina and inability to hold the urine while sneezing or coughing. Urinary incontinence is troublesome and affects one’s morale. Abnormal hair growth on the face, loss of hair on the head, dark pigmentation of the skin of the face and neck, dryness of the eyes and mouth can also occur during the time of menopause. Changes in the blood vessels, heart, bone and fat metabolism leads to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
There is a loss of calcium in the bones called osteoporosis. Lack of estrogen and aging are common causes for osteoporosis. This results in muscle, bone and joint pain and severe backache too.
If osteoporosis is severe it may result in fractures of the hip, vertebrae and bones of the wrist and forearm. Osteoporosis can and must be prevented and treated with hormones.
Positive approach towards life is a must at this phase of life for a woman. A balanced mental frame of mind with constructive and creative thoughts will help her a lot. This involves taking care of the body and preventing obesity. Like their counterparts in the western countries, Indian women should dress well, continue to look charming and lead an active life.
Proper diet and exercise combined with the HRT ( Hormone Replacement Therapy) is very essential for all women to relieve the symptoms and complications of menopause . Replacement of nutritional factors like calcium, vitamins and Antioxidants ( prevention of aging) should be added.
Women after menopause, have so much to contribute to their families, society and to humanity. Hence they must be active both physically and mentally and face the challenges to the brain and body.
Pic courtesy: Raise Bay