Menopause

WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is a natural part of life.
Menopause means ‘the final menstrual period’ or monthly bleed. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period naturally for 12 months in a row. Menopause is the end of a woman’s reproductive life but it is not the end of her creative life.
Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 years but the average age is 51.

~ What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause when the ovaries begin to run out of eggs and the menstrual cycle becomes irregular. The time between regular periods and the final period is usually between four to six years.
Contraception should be used until you have had 12months in a row without a natural period.

WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR BODIES
Women are born with about a million eggs in each ovary. Between a woman’s first period until menopause, about 500 eggs are released through ovulation. After the ages of 35-40, ovulation becomes less frequent until the periods finally stop. The rest of the eggs disappear, breakdown or deteriorate by the time she reaches menopause.

~ The role of oestrogen
Oestrogen is a female hormone produced by the cells in the ovaries. As the number of eggs reduce, the ovaries produce less oestrogen. This decline is gradual but sporadic so the hormone levels can go up and down a lot during the few years before menopause.

The changing levels of oestrogen is what causes changes in the menstrual cycle such as:

  • Longer, shorter or irregular periods
  • Lighter bleeding
  • Unpredictable and heavy bleeding

Eventually the hormone levels get so low that menstruation stops altogether, this is menopause.

SYMPTOMS

  • Hot flushes / night sweats
  • Aches and pains
  • A feeling of crawling under the skin or itching
  • Headaches
  • Vaginal dryness (can make sex uncomfortable)
  • Reduced libido (reduced sex drive)
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Mood changes ( e.g. depression, irritability)
  • Tiredness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Forgetfulness

~ Experiences of symptoms

  • 20% experience no symptoms
  • 60% experience mild symptoms
  • 20% experience severe symptoms
  • The length of time symptoms are experienced varies (average 8 years)

MANAGING MENOPAUSE
Improving overall health and wellbeing helps manage the symptoms of meno-pause.

~ Healthy Eating
Maintain a healthy weight, eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water, reduce caffeine, avoid smoking, limit alcohol, eat high calcium foods to re-duce the risk of osteoporosis, eat lean meat and healthy fats (omega 3 fats) and eat phytoestrogens (plant based oestrogen)

~ Exercise
Regular exercise helps with overall health and wellbeing and is good for the heart and bones. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity physical activity on all or most days.

~ HRT (Hormone replacement therapy)
Can help improve the symptoms of meno-pause (hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep) but like any medication it can have side effects. HRT can be a suitable treat-ment for some women depending on age, medical history and symptoms. HRT may not be suitable for women with cardiovas-cular disease.

NON HORMONAL THERAPIES
Some women prefer to use natural therapies to manage menopause symptoms. Always discuss natural therapies with your GP because some may interact with other medications.

Research into possible benefits of natural remedies is ongoing. Possible natural therapies include phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) in the diet, herbal remedies such as Black Cohosh, evening primrose oil, and red clover, meditation and massage.

Further information:
www.menopause.org.au
www.fpnsw.org.au

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