7 Questions and Answers about Menopause
1. What is menopause?
Menopause is when a woman’s menstrual cycles cease, and thus marks the end of fertility. When a woman reaches her fifties, her supply of eggs, stored since birth and released at puberty, comes to an end.
With age, ovaries stop producing the estrogen and progesterone that regulate ovulation and menstrual cycles.
2. What are the signs of menopause?
One of the main signs of menopause is hot flashes, first in the abdomen or chest, then the neck and face. Their frequency and duration (a few seconds to a few minutes) vary from one woman to another.
Other observable signs include profuse sweating (especially at night), mood swings and decreased bone density.
Some women also experience insomnia and frequent awakenings at night during perimenopause: a two- to seven-year period before the last menstruation cycle and the year that follows. These problems are attributable to both night sweats and anxiety.
3. Does menopause affect sexual desire?
Because of hormonal shifts, libido can be affected.
The cessation of estrogen secretion from the ovaries may decrease the production of mucus in the vagina and bladder. This decline—not hazardous to health—can lead to dryness and thinning of the mucous membranes. Discomfort translates into itching, burning in the vagina and vulva, and pain during intercourse. A water-based lubricant can help relieve this problem. Sexual desire can also be influenced by potential weight gain, which affects self-esteem and thus curbs the desire for intimacy.
4. When is a woman considered to be in menopause?
Menopause is official when a woman has not had her period for at least 12 months.
5. Can menopause start before the age of 50?
Yes, this is called premature menopause, which can be caused by an illness, medication, surgery or cancer treatment. If this happens, see a doctor to have your estrogen levels assessed to prevent any related health issues.
6. Is it possible to alleviate the discomforts of menopause?
Research has found that active women who maintain a healthy diet have significantly fewer symptoms. Choose foods rich in calcium and vitamins, not to mention omega-3s, which are essential to good heart health. Smoking should also be avoided as it strongly affects estrogen production.
As for hot flashes, you can reduce their effects by drinking plenty of water and eating three small meals a day along with a few snacks. The body will maintain steady blood sugar levels, almost completely reducing the risk of hypoglycemia. Cutting back on coffee and hot drinks also helps.
7. What to do if the effects of menopause are particularly bothersome?
In very serious cases, when menopause disrupts a woman's daily life or when she is at high risk of bone loss or fracture, a doctor may prescribe hormonal treatment (or hormone therapy).
Administered orally, as a patch or even as a gel to be applied locally (if symptoms are concentrated in the genital area), this treatment is effective in reducing hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness and bone loss.
However, hormone therapy can cause migraines and increase the risk of stroke and blood clots. Therefore, the guidance of a physician is essential.