Menopause is a word every woman has heard of but it’s not always something widely discussed and detailed knowledge can sometimes be a little thin. Sadly this often leads to women feeling embarrassed to discuss gynaecological health issues with their doctor. As a result many suffer the symptoms of menopause in silence and consider it part of a woman’s natural development without ever knowing there are solutions to their problems.
What is menopause?
Not knowing too much about menopause is nothing to be ashamed of, in many ways it’s like a reverse puberty and plenty of women will remember not discussing puberty until it was actually happening. Menopause, from the Greek ‘menos’ and ‘pausis’, or month and stop, is the term for when a woman stops menstruating, no longer releases eggs and her monthly dose of extra hormones levels out.
Menopause has a warning period called menopausal transition, or perimenopause, where periods may become irregular and hot flushes and night sweats may occur. Perimenopause symptoms can start 2-4 years before the final period and officially ends with menopause which is marked when a year has passed since the last period.
When does menopause occur?
Each woman is different and much like when she began puberty, the age she begins menopause at depends on her hormones. Generally speaking menopause will occur between 48 and 55 with the average menopausal age for Australian women being 51 years.
The build up to menopause actually begins much earlier, roughly around 40, when levels of oestrogen and progesterone start to decline, changing the frequency or flow of periods.
Early menopause affects about 1% of women. Other factors like chemotherapy , surgery or family history may be factors in developing premature menopause.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Most women will experience some symptoms of menopause, with the severity and duration depending on the woman. The most common symptoms of menopause are:
- Menstrual changes – irregularity may occur and the flow may be affected, getting unusually heavier or lighter. Spotting between cycles may also occur.
- Hot flushes – sudden feeling of fever-like heat lasting a few moments usually around the face, neck or chest.
- Night sweats – these are hot flushes that occur at night and are strong enough to wake you.
- Vaginal dryness/atrophy – the vaginal wall becomes thinner and drier as oestrogen levels drop. As a result of dryness the chances of developing a Urinary Tract Infection such as cystitis increases. This dryness can also make sex painful.
- Trouble sleeping – some women find it difficult to sleep at night, sometimes due to night sweats but often because of the hormonal changes.
- Mood – changes in mood such as feeling low or anxious is common.
Other symptoms can include headaches, reduction of muscle mass, stiffness, general aches and pains and on occasion osteoporosis – weakening of the bones.
If you think you might be experiencing menopause symptoms, there are a number of tests that can confirm the early signs of menopause.
Menstrual flow changes
How long does menopause last?
On average menopause symptoms may last 2-10 years, and it is not uncommon for postmenopausal symptoms to go on for a extended time.
With women now living longer than ever it is estimated that 40% of a woman’s life is post-menopause. Socially, physically and sexually active women do not want to waste the prime of their life dealing with hot flushes, mood changes or vaginal atrophy. Menopause can be liberating in so many ways and with the right treatment it doesn’t have to affect your quality of life.
What treatments are available?
Dr Ljiljana endorses two treatments – HRT and MonaLisa Touch – as proven, effective solutions for treating symptoms of menopause.
Hormone Replacement Therapy involves taking oestrogen and progesterone supplements to help relieve hot flushes; reduce vaginal dryness and recurrent UTIs; improve sex drive and counteract osteoporosis. HRT can also reduce the risk of bowel cancer however it can slightly raise your chances of developing other conditions. Dr Ljiljana will discuss these with you should you mutually decide HRT is the best course of action for you.
This new therapy is proving to be popular for treating vaginal dryness and discomfort, as it is a relatively effective and painless procedure without requiring ongoing medication. Read more about MonaLisa Touch.
Speak to Dr Ljiljana to discuss any questions you have about menopause and the effective and lasting solutions she offers.