News on The Menopause Clock
Menopause is a different experience for every woman; it’s a theoretical alarm on the biological clock, which signals to females that the reproductive period of life is coming to an end. Generally, it begins with the final menstrual period, after which, there are no more eggs to be released into the fallopian tubes. The North American Menopause Society writes; “During perimenopause, hormone tests are generally not helpful because hormone levels change throughout the menstrual cycle. Sometimes testing is done to check specific hormone levels, especially to evaluate fertility problems or when periods stop at an early age. This can help women make decisions about beginning or adjusting treatment.”
Although research shows us that this is expected of all women with normally functioning reproductive systems, it is not the same for everybody. Some women may experience symptoms associated with menopause for longer, while others may not experience any severe symptoms aside from the lack of a period, and changes in sexual functionality.
There’s no exact moment in a woman’s life at which point menopause will begin. It fluctuates in age, with some women reaching early menopause around 45 years of age, and others beginning the menopause cycle closer to 60. The average age at which menopause begins in North America is 51; this is the time when early symptoms will begin to appear.
The symptoms of menopause can begin years ahead of the change, and continue for years after. As mentioned above, for some women these can be more noticeable than for others. Just as the age at which menopause commences fluctuates, so too does the end of the symptom cycle.
The most noticeable and common symptom to appear at the beginning of the pre-menopause cycle is the lack of, or irregularity in your period. Following this, women often describe hot flashes occurring at night time when trying to rest. Medical News Today reports; “As estrogen levels drop, a woman’s menstrual cycle may change. She may miss periods or experience longer lengths of time between periods. Menstruation may also be heavier or lighter than previously. Decreases in estrogen levels can cause vaginal lubrication to change and decrease. As lubrication decreases, the vaginal tissues also become thinner.”
As symptoms progress, women may experience a lower sex drive, painful intercourse, and of course, the inability to become pregnant. As the cycle progresses women will feel additional symptoms such as mood swings, abdominal cramping, restless leg syndrome, holding onto weight in areas where it wouldn’t stay before, and even short term memory loss.
Due to the changes in hormones, some women begin to see hair loss, or hair growth in unexpected areas, such as the face. Fatigue, and an inability to focus on one subject for a long time has also been reported.
Not every woman will experience every one of these symptoms during menopause, but they are all commonly featured in the average menopausal experience as documented in North America. Fortunately, symptoms are not permanent and there are some treatment options available to decrease and alleviate them.
Hormone based treatments can be risky, and aren’t commonly recommended by physicians due to their correlations to certain types of cancer. To avoid this issue, many doctors will suggest natural methods of symptom control first. For hot flashes this could mean keeping cold water on hand, and storing ice packs in the freezer. Restless leg syndrome can be relaxed in a hot bath.
An important part of staying healthy and reducing symptom severity comes in the form of sleep. When your body receives enough sleep each night, it is better able to protect itself from deterioration, and allows you to better manage your symptoms both physically and mentally. Drink plenty of water, take a multivitamin which includes calcium, and steer clear of caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes.
Clean eating, and regular physical activity can also help. If you are feeling discomfort during urination, or sexual intercourse, your doctor may be able to recommend a natural water based lubricant, or another way to combat the dryness you are feeling.
Speak to Your Doctor
If you are beginning to experience symptoms of menopause, or you are concerned that something is not quite right with your menstrual cycle, speak to your family doctor. Not all symptoms above are strictly associated with menopause, and an early halt in the reproductive cycle could be due to other medical problems. Healthline suggests; “Before you visit your doctor, track any symptoms you’re experiencing, how often they occur, and how severe they are. Note when you had your last period and report any irregularities that might have occurred. Make a list of medications and supplements you’re currently taking.”
Discuss new therapies and treatments with your physician before starting anything drastic; this includes major dietary changes. Sometimes changing your diet and adjusting exercise levels during menopause can be positive, but this is also a time when women require additional nutrients and vitamins, which may be becoming limited in your system.
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