Arrival of Menopause? Your Mental Health Might Take a Hitby Carissa Andrews - October 21st, 2019
World Menopause Day is coming up on Friday, October 18th and in honor of it, we wanted to discuss post-reproductive health and the symptoms that can go along with this life transition. As a 41-year old woman, the idea of being perimenopausal has come up a couple of times in the back of my mind. I’ve often wondered when symptoms will really start to come on and what will impact me the most. More importantly, is there anything I can proactively do to minimize them? Or when they start, is there anything I can do to relieve them naturally? I’m sure I can’t be the only one, so let’s take a closer look at the stages of menopause, how it can affect women differently, and ultimately, what can be done to live a full, engaging life – even after menopause.
What to Expect From Each Stage of Menopause
There are three main stages to menopause that women (and men) should be aware of.
1. Pre-menopause / perimenopauseThis early stage of menopause can start before you turn 40, though the specific timeframe will really depend on your genetics. During this stage, the first sign is typically an irregular menstrual cycle. For women who have always had an irregular cycle, this can be harder to determine. However, you might start noticing your cycle getting lighter or going for fewer days when it does arrive. In addition, periodic hot flashes might crop up. You can also see breast tenderness, fatigue, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and trouble sleeping. According to WebMD, most women are in this stage at or around 47. Within 4-5 years after it starts, you’ll usually find yourself in official menopause. This is because as your estrogen levels start to drop and symptoms become more noticeable because the drop is more substantial.
2. MenopauseWhile this stage only lasts a year, and often you have no idea you’re officially in it until it’s over – menopause is the stage when you’ve had your final menstrual period. This stage usually comes with plenty of hot flashes as your body adjusts, vaginal dryness as your estrogen levels drop, and sleep problems can arise.
3. Post-menopauseOnce you’ve reached your 1-year anniversary of your final period, welcome to the world of post-menopause. From here on out, you’re postmenopausal all the way. (See what I mean about not knowing you were in menopause until it’s over?) This stage continues on for the rest of your life and is signified by no more menstrual periods. Most of the extreme symptoms will subside as your body regulates itself, but there are still ways you can relieve them naturally, too. The typical duration is about 4 ½ years, though, so you might continue to experience sleep problems, brain fog, hot flashes, and mood swings.
Can Menopause Affect Your Mental Health?
As a matter of fact, your mental health needs to be a priority during the menopausal years. The added stresses of a body in transition, mood swings, brain fog, hot flashes, and goodness knows what else can take its toll. And while research already says women are twice as likely to suffer depression as men, menopause and all of this added stress can make it worse.
Couple with it the fact that many older women tend to be less active (both physically and socially) and may not have the healthiest of lifestyles – and you’re on a collision course for depression disaster. Doing what you can to regulate your moods, relieve stress, and have a healthy, balanced life is critical. Take the time to think about how you handle stress and your own personal health—both mentally and physically. Then, make it a priority in your life.
5 Natural Ways to Relieve Menopause Symptoms
So, with all of these body/mind changes happening and somewhat crazy symptoms, how can we combat or relieve the transition as we go through menopause? The good news is, there is a lot more you can do than you might think. Here are five awesome ways to get relief 100% naturally.
1. Stay active – This might seem obvious, but by staying active you are not only helping your body stay physically fit, but you are oxygenating the blood and brain – and keeping it healthy, too. Neurogenesis (new brain cell growth) is spurred on by physical activity and hormonal regulation also takes place when stress levels are reduced, and endorphin levels rise. All of this happens when we are physically active.
2. Keep a healthy diet and weight – Cardiovascular health, joint and muscle health, as well as brain health are all interdependent on what we eat and how we manage our weight. The higher the weight, the higher the risk for lots of unwanted side effects. This includes the not so nice ones that come along with menopause.
3. Avoid alcohol – Spicy foods, caffeine, and yes, even alcohol can all add to body temps rising and bringing on hot flashes. In addition, alcohol all on its own is known to cause brain fog for days. So, if that symptom is one you’re trying to combat, alcohol is making it worse. Keep your intake as low as possible, and if you can, avoid it all together.
4. Keep an active sex life – In addition to keeping your relationship healthy, maintaining an active sex life adds to feelings of wellbeing, reduces overall stress, and keeps your, um… lady parts in shape. Just like any other muscle, they need to be worked in order to be in their best health. That means if incontinence is an issue or a worry, Kegel it up and get some more time in the sack.
5. Healthy bacteria – Hormones are upset during the menopause transition, that part is no question. But did you know it can also mean throwing the natural balance in your vagina out of whack? In fact, it can decrease your healthy bacteria and increase your vaginal pH. This can lead to more urinary tract infections and other vaginal health issues like cervical dysplasia or genital infections. One of the ways to combat this may be to maintain a healthy body pH and include probiotics into your daily diet.
Menopause Treatment Options
Not every woman is going to want to go so far as treatments, but some may find their menopausal symptoms are just too much to handle. The main treatment is in the form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This kind of treatment involves taking a replacement form of estrogen to supplement its natural loss. It is effective and suitable to most women and can relieve a number of symptoms.
There are two types of menopausal HRT.
1. Combination HRT (estrogen and progesterone) – a combination hormone of both estrogen and progesterone is prescribed to women who still have their uterus intact. This is because estrogen by itself can actually increase the risk of uterine cancer for postmenopausal women.
2. Estrogen only HRT – estrogen on its own is given to women who have had a hysterectomy (their uterus removed).
Either of these types of medications can be prescribed in the form of tablets, skin patches, gel, or implants. We carry a number of these products right here in our online pharmacy.
HRT does need to come with a word of warning, however. For women who have had certain types of hormonal cancers, such as breast cancer or uterine cancer, this type of therapy should be avoided – or at the very least discusses with your doctor so you know the risks.
Every woman will eventually go through some form of menopause in their lifetime. It affects us all and having the information to proactively take it on will help us live fuller, healthier lives in our older years. Hopefully this information was beneficial to you in your journey to menopause understanding and has opened the door for asking more pertinent questions to your doctor in your next visit. For those of you wanting to join in on the menopause conversation this month, be sure to check out the Twitter hashtags #worldmenopauseday and #makemenopausematter.
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