Menopause is the natural cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle and the end of fertility. The average age of menopause is 52 years, but can vary anywhere between the 4th and 5th decade. It is characterised by the absence of menstrual cycle for about an year preceded by irregular menstrual cycles. The peri-menopausal phase refers to the time before menopause sets in, which is around 3-5 years. However, the changes often start upto 10 years before the actual menopause.
Now, with all this technical facts being said, let’s allow the news to sink in- no menstruation anymore! We have been complaining about it all our menstrual life and finally it is coming to an end, so isn’t it great news?!
Well, it’s not so straightforward. Just like all other aspects related to women, it’s complicated!
What exactly causes menopause? We know that the entire menstrual business is closely interlinked with hormones. Estrogen and progesterone being two of the very common ones, which are secreted by the ovaries. Now, there are 2 more hormones called the luteinizing hormone(LH) and the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which are the key hormones for ovulation. As a woman ages, we can say that the ovaries get tired of these LH and FSH and stop responding to them anymore. These ovaries also get old and stubborn and stop producing estrogen and progesterone too. This leads to stoppage of ovulation and in turn even menstruation ends. All this doesn’t happen overnight(obviously), the changes are long drawn.
Menstruation seemed difficult due to the craziness of hormones, but brace yourselves because these hormones are not letting you go so easily! Falling levels of these chemicals can also bring in adverse effects in the body. It’s physical components includes hot flushes, night sweats, decreased libido, irregular menstrual cycles and painful sexual intercourse due to decreased vaginal secretions. All these because of the decreased estrogen levels. Problematic as it would seem, estrogen did have a protective function in the body like lowering cholesterol level, conserving the calcium in bones and reducing acne. And now that estrogen has gone down, a woman becomes more prone to several diseases which were initially shielded by the hormone. Now you know, why bone demineralization is such a rampant problem among the older women. Just like menstruation had a psychological factor related to it, so does menopause. Most of it takes root because of the ignorance of the situation and not acknowledging the problem. Many, if not all women, go through a myriad of mood changes. Forgetfulness is perhaps the most common part. Though it is normal, incomprehension of it’s normalcy has caused many women to believe that they were going through some serious illness. It is necessary to talk about it more, so that women are more prepared and welcoming of what is going to eventuate. And ofcourse, a significant component is the fear of losing womanhood, which adds to the already stressful process. This can precipitate depression in vulnerable individuals and thus must be treated with love, care and support by understanding family members.
After all that women have gone through in the lifetime, menopause doesn’t seem like a horrid nightmare, but an experience all the same. The problem lies in the fact that women are largely unaware of what exactly transpires in the peri-menopausal phase, even if they do have a fair idea of the existence of menopause. Just like we have young girls being terrified at the sight of blood during their menarche
and jumping into scary conclusions about a deadly disease they could be harbouring, we have older women being baffled by the episode they are going through. Women not being able to trace the origin of these hight sweats and why they wake up sleepy and irritable the next day is not uncommon. The sudden onset of forgetfulness can lead to a dent in the self-confidence of women and can open up doors for self doubt. However, it is important to understand that this is a totally normal phenomena which every woman goes through. We are all in this together. Both young girls and old women go through a similar affair whose origin can be traced down to the insufficient knowledge on the subject. To talk about it and share our experiences are the mainstay solutions. It is important to mention here that just like the disparity in menstrual experiences among various women, menopause is also a signature to every individual. On one hand, we can have the luckier population of women who do not experience too many of these menopausal symptoms, whereas on the other side, we have women who could be going through exaggerated ones. Medical intervention might be required in such circumstances. Estrogen preparations could be given to compensate for it’s depleted levels, but it’s not free of side effects, so it must be discussed through with your doctor.
It is wrong to assume that women become less productive in their jobs after menopause. Women have been working hard all their lives, what with maintaining a house and a family, raising children and at the same time acing in their professional life too. For someone who has done so much in their lifetime, this is but another challenge which will only make them stronger.
To answer the question I asked before whether menopause is great news or not, the answer is simple. It is what you make of it. Just like every aspect of life, whether you want to use it as a stepping ladder or not, is always in your hands. Nature and it’s creations continue to bewilder us every time. Everything that nature has brought into being serves a purpose and holds a beauty deep within. So does the process of menopause.
You do not have to look at it as the end of womanhood but a new phase of it. Make sure you converse with your loved ones about it and that they understand what you are going through. Also, if you have any woman in your circle who is nearing menopause, make sure you do adequate research and stand
with her through this transition. This is not something to be ashamed of or kept a secret, just like menstrual cycles. It is as normal as menarche, menstruation, as pregnancy and as motherhood. It is essential to keep your self confidence above the torrential waves of the menopausal symptoms and the stigma associated with it. It is of paramount importance to look at menopause as a beginning rather than the beginning of an end