Menopause is a normal and natural part of ageing. It is the period when a woman no longer menstruates and cannot be able to get pregnant naturally anymore. It begins slowly, with your menstrual flow gradually becoming less frequent over a few minutes or years, before it finally stops. In some cases, it stops suddenly.

Menopause gradually occurs in women between the ages of 45 – 55 years as their level of oestrogen reduces. It is not uncommon for a few numbers of women to experience menopause before the age of 40. This is known as premature menopause.

What is the cause of menopause?

Although menopause is accepted as a natural process of ageing for women, it is still important to know what leads to this ageing and its process.

Menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the female body sex hormones. This is a form of decline and happens when you get older. At this point, your ovaries produce less oestrogen, and you stop ovulating.

Sometimes, it is also caused by surgical treatment to remove the ovaries, or chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or some medical condition such as Addison ‘s disease or Down syndrome.

Symptoms of Menopause

Every woman is different. As every woman experience menstrual flow in different ways and days, so it is the same with menopause. Different women experience symptoms differently as they near menopause. For some women, their periods cease completely at once while for others, their menstrual flow gradually reduces until it stops completely.

Changes in menstrual flow

This is perhaps the most significant symptom of menopause. The first symptom is the change in the pattern of your period. It could become an unusually light period or unusually heavy period. The frequency and consistency will be affected. You might start having them every 2 or 3 weeks, or you may miss them for months. All this happens until it stops completely.

Other common symptoms include;

  • Night Sweats
  • Insomnia- difficulty sleeping, causing tiredness during the day
  • Vaginal dryness; causing discomfort during sex
  • Headaches
  • Reduced libido
  • Hot flushes; sudden feeling of heat in the face, neck and chest manifesting as reddish skin and sweat
  • Reduced concentration and memory problems
  • Mood changes
  • Palpitations
  • Recurrent UTIs (urinary tract infection)
  • Stiff joints, aches and pain
  • Reduced muscle mass

Menopause also increases your chances of developing osteoporosis (weak bones) which is also as a result of lower levels of oestrogen.

Treatment of Menopause

There are different treatments available for the symptoms of menopause. The main treatment, however, is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). You might discover that not all women would want treatment for the symptoms of menopause.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

This involves taking oestrogen to supplement the decline in your own body’s level at the time of menopause. It is highly effective and is known to relieve many symptoms of menopause. It is if two types;

1. Oestrogen-only HRT: This is for women who have removed their womb through hysterectomy.

2. Combined –HRT: This is for women who still have their womb around the time of menopause. It includes both oestrogen and progesterone.

HRT can be in the form of tablets, implants, gel to apply on skin or skin patches. It also has several side effects like headache, breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding. However, it is not advisable for women who have had breast cancer or are at risk of getting them.

Hot flushes and night sweat

If you experience these symptoms, you can get some relief by;

  • Keeping your bedroom cool at night
  • Taking cool shower or a cold drink
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding potential triggers like alcohol, smoking or caffeine.

However, if these symptoms are severe, HRT is administered. If there is a case where HRT isn’t suitable for you, other medications can be recommended by your physician.

Other forms of treatment can be advisable for different symptoms. For example, plenty of rest and regular exercise, and healthy eating are some remedies generally recommended by doctors to relieve symptoms like mood changes and weak bones.

In a few cases, HRT is administered for oestrogen treatment, as in cases like vaginal dryness and discomfort. It might interest you to note that testosterone, the male sex hormone is sometimes an option for menopausal women. It is not licensed for use in women, but it can sometimes be prescribed by a doctor to help restore sex drive in menopausal women. For weak bones, HRT is strongly advised, together with exposure to sunlight and eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.

During treatment for menopause, you will have to visit your GP for a follow-up review after 3 months, and also once a year after treatment. During these reviews, your reaction to the HRT is checked, including side effects if any, and see if there would be a need to make changes regarding your treatment.