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Menopause: What to Expect when you reach this phase.

After what may seem like a lifetime of shedding unfertilised eggs and uterine lining in a bloody monthly spectacle, uteruses start on a slow retirement journey. At first gradually, and then at a quicker pace, they start dropping estrogen levels and giving up on ovum production.
What we generally understand about ‘menopause’ is that it is a process that may last years. And, ends when all egg production finally stops.
The period before, during and after menopause is important to manage. It brings along many physical and emotional changes with it.

Perimenopause

Also referred to as ‘menopause transition’, Perimenopause is the period preceding the menopause point. The length of this period is subjective to a person’s general health levels, heredity, and other factors, though the general pattern suggests that it begins during a person’s 40s. Depending on the dominant factors, perimenopause can last a year, 4 years, a decade, or even a few months. What is essentially happening is that the menstruation process is preparing to come to a halt, so the estrogen levels are changing. This leads to many changes in the menstrual cycles – it can become irregular, unusually light or heavy, can show up as spotting, can show up as clumps of blood, cause unusual PMS symptoms, and more.

The symptoms of perimenopause are understood to be similar to that of menopause. The difference being that the person may still keep experiencing menstrual bleeding and can still become pregnant, depending on the state of fertility. Perimenopausal persons typically experience the following symptoms: 

  • Tenderness of the breasts
  • Hot flashes
  • Sleep troubles coupled with heightened feeling of tiredness
  • Dryness of the labia majora and the vulvar region (coconut oil is an excellent remedy here!)
  • Loss of libido
  • Periodic incontinence 
  • Mood swings and a risk of depressive periods

Because the symptoms may align with some other serious conditions as well, it is always advised to consult a doctor and possibly get blood tests done to ascertain whether it is indeed perimenopause. Managing these symptoms is key to feeling healthy during this period, so the obvious things to do are eat well and on time, include dietary supplements on doctor’s advice, exercise to maintain a healthy BMI, develop a disciplined sleep schedule, and find ways of easing mood swings through relaxing activities and interactions with loved ones. 

Menopause

Like menstration, Menopause has become a subject of sexist ‘jokes’, often thrown around to malign ‘mood swings’ in women. However, menopause is a completely natural process, subjective to each individual. We need to view it beyond it’s stigmatic narratives.

A person is effectively in menopause when they have stopped having their periods for 12 months straight. Menopause can also be brought on, either over time or abruptly, by certain medication, physical ailments, a few severe eating disorders, and certain surgical operations, especially those involving the reproductive system and cancer prevention. 

Menopause can be followed by a bunch of symptoms, many of which are well-understood. If you are a person in the fourth decade of your life, then menopausal symptoms can be expected to show up. Though some persons do experience it in their late 30s or early 50s. There is no way of predicting when exactly you will hit menopause. So it is best to stop worrying and instead learn to manage its symptoms.

So, here is what you must consider: 

  • Menopause’s two most obvious symptoms are night sweats and hot flashes
  • A menopausal person will be susceptible to many mood changes, facing a high risk of developing anxiety and depression. Individuals facing these conditions will need to seek medical help. Other feelings could include tiredness and a few memory issues
  • Expect certain physical changes with decreasing estrogen levels. Menopausal persons may experience some weight gain, find their skin drier than usual, find hair growth in some unexpected spots, and experience stiffness in the joints and muscles
  • Post-menopausal sex life can often be a challenge, so make adjustments accordingly and consider the use of lubrication 
  • Remember that pregnancy is still on the cards as long as the periods have not stopped for 12 months straight. Using some forms of birth control will help not just prevent a pregnancy but also to manage a few menopausal symptoms 

The experience of menopause can be varied, but one can decide to not complicate matters by committing to be healthy and as emotionally positive as possible. Rationally-managed menopause can truly be a period full of possibilities.

Author: Shruti Sharada is a freelance writer, editor, communications strategist, podcast host, and queer feminist based in Bengaluru, India. She curates ‘The Feminist Reading List’ page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheFeministRL 

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