A woman is said to be in menopause when she does not have her menstrual period for a year or more, after she has clocked the menopausal age of between 45 to 55. It is a biological process in which the function of the ovaries ceases and marks the end of fertility. While it is a normal process and not a disease, it comes with changes that trigger symptoms before the last menstrual cycle and even months and years after that.
Dr. Eche Ugochukwu, said menopause is the time that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles and that it is diagnosed after a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Dr. Ugochukwu, who is a general medical practitioner at the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, Nasarawa State, said the average age of menopause in Nigerian women is typically between the ages of 45 – 54 years of age, adding “but menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s. There is no reliable laboratory test to predict when a woman will experience menopause.”
The physician said the of menopause include: Natural decline of reproductive hormones, hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy and primary ovarian insufficiency.
Dr Ugochukwu gave the following as ways to cope with the symptoms of menopause:
- Take note of your hot flash triggers such as; caffeine, alcohol, hot room, stress which are common causes and avoid them. However when a flash starts, take slow deep breaths in your nose and out of your mouth till it subsides.
- Anti-depressants and stress management will ease mood swings.
- Eat right and ensure regular exercise, this will keep your weight in check and ensure that your sleep patterns are better.
- Get Hormonal therapy.
On what women should do when they enter menopause too early, he advised them to see their doctor for guidance.
“Manage the symptoms as listed above. However, if symptoms are more severe, the woman may benefit from hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Dietary supplements containing vitamin D and calcium can lower your risk of osteoporosis. These treatments will not return fertility however, so if you wish to become pregnant, in vitro fertilization may help,” he said.
He also said menopausal women should understand that menopause is a new stage of their life and should endeavour to seek more awareness and live with the realities of this new stage. During menopause, the risk of cardiovascular disease such as stroke and heart failure increases. He said heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in women. “So it’s important to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain a normal weight.”
The physician also advised women to ensure regular visits to their doctor for check-ups.
When to see a doctor
Symptoms, including changes in menstruation, are different for every woman. Most likely, you’ll experience some irregularity in your periods before they end.
Skipping periods during perimenopause is common and expected. Often, menstrual periods will skip a month and return, or skip several months and then start monthly cycles again for a few months. Periods also tend to happen on shorter cycles, so they are closer together. Despite irregular periods, pregnancy is possible. If you’ve skipped a period but aren’t sure you’ve started the menopausal transition, consider a pregnancy test.
Keep up with regular visits with your doctor for preventive health care and any medical concerns. Continue getting these appointments during and after menopause.
Preventive health care as you age may include recommended health screening tests, such as colonoscopy, mammography and triglyceride screening. Your doctor might recommend other tests and exams, too, including thyroid testing if suggested by your history, and breast and pelvic exams.
Always seek medical advice if you have bleeding from your vagina after menopause.