Menopause is the spontaneous, permanent ending of your monthly cycle (menstruation), and it is not caused by medical treatment. It is the final menstrual period and it is a normal event that occurs naturally. Menopause is confirmed once a woman has not had her period for 12 consecutive months.
But what physically happens in your body? Your ovaries stop producing oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and this causes all the symptoms and signs of menopause.
At what age do women go into menopause?
Natural menopause gets experienced by all women between 40 and 58, with the average age around 51 years old. Some women, however, reach this in their 30’s and others only in their 60’s. A good indication will be the age that your mother and sisters went into menopause.
So what is perimenopause then?
Perimenopause is the timeframe in between your normal menstruation and menopause – like a transitional phase. Your body will start providing physical clues that your menopausal process has started. This phase can last a few months, but it can also still be years until your final menstrual period.
Some signs of perimenopause include hot flushes, irregular periods, sleep disturbances, mood swings, irritability and vaginal dryness. This gets caused by the hormone, oestrogen, that will fluctuate between high and low levels in your body. Sometimes you might feel completely normal, and other times you might experience all, or some, of these symptoms.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Menopause can cause a lot of different symptoms and not all women experience it the same. Here are some of the more common ones
- Hot flushes
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary symptoms (infections, incontinence etc)
- Weight changes
- Decrease in bone density
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood changes like Anxiety or depression
- Loss of libido
How is menopause treated?
The treatment of menopause should always be individualised. Some females might prefer to not go onto hormones at all, but rather just treat their symptoms. The benefits and risks gets discussed and if you decide to go onto hormonal therapy, conventional HRT or bio-identical and compounded hormones are prescribed by the My Sexual Health doctors. One of the treatment modalities that is gaining popularity yet again is hormone implants, particularly testosterone for treating sexual dysfunction.
So is sex still possible in menopause?
Definitely! Read this interesting blog about sex after 50!
For more information, have a look at the website of SAMS (The South African Menopause Society).
Some have signs and symptoms that stop, and then start again. Some have no symptoms, others have them all. The menopause journey is unique for every woman – Some go through it gracefully and others suffer.
You do not have to struggle. If your risk is low, then there are so many health benefits to taking hormone therapy. Come and talk to us about it and discuss it in depth! It is not a once-size-fits-all situation! https://mysexualhealth.co.za/practices/
Written by Dr Jeanne Aspeling
Head of My Sexual Health – Cape Town