All you need to know about menopause

October 18 is observed as World Menopause Day to throw light on the less relevant, yet important phase in a woman's life

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October 18 is marked as World Menopause Day and the day is not observed to laud the fluctuating hormones or the phase. It is an attempt on part of the World Health Organisation, in collaboration with the International Menopause Society to throw light on the health of menopausal women. This day is a way to encourage education and awareness of this increasingly relevant, yet still misunderstood and stigmatised issue.

Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life cycle. Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her periods stop. It usually occurs naturally, most often once the woman crosses 50 years. Menopause happens because the woman’s ovaries cease to function causing a series of changes in the body. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair.

The menopausal transition starts with varying menstrual cycle length and ends with the final menstrual period. Most women reach menopause between the age of 45 and 55, but it may also occur in the age of mid 30s or early 40s. In some women, it does not occur until they get to their early 60s.

A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for a year. It is permanent end of menstruation. Many women frequently find it difficult to cope with the menopausal outcomes. Women also often face decrease in sex drive during menopause.

Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, president elect of Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), said, “Menopause, and specifically the symptoms of menopause, can be challenging, both emotionally and physically. There is no reliable lab test to predict when a woman will experience menopause, but Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AHM) blood test can roughly reflect the size of the remaining egg supply or ovarian reserve. Women in menopause should maintain healthy diet to fight with menopause.”

She added that some women may experience premature menopause (early menopause) as their ovaries fail earlier than they are supposed to (before the age of 45).

“Ovarian failure can occur at any age, but very rarely,” Dr Dhillon Pai said.

Common Symptoms of Menopause

  • Changes in periods
  • Hot flashes* and night sweats
  • Trouble in sleeping
  • Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Less hair on head, more on face
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Decrease in sex drive
  • Urinary problem

*A hot flash, sometimes called a hot flush, is a quick feeling of heat and sometimes a red, flushed face and sweating. The exact cause of hot flashes is not known, but it may be related to changes in circulation. Hot flashes happen when the blood vessels near the skin’s surface dilate to cool. A woman may also sweat to cool down her body and some women have a rapid heart rate or chills.