What is Menopause?
Menopause is a normal part of life for women, usually occurring around the late 40s or early 50s. It is characterised by hormonal changes as your ovaries are producing less oestrogen, eventually resulting in the end of ovulation (and therefore, menstrual periods). The lack of oestrogen also leads to other symptoms, which will be discussed below.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The symptoms of menopause are largely due to the lower levels of oestrogen (the female sex hormone) circulating in the body. Symptoms include:
Change in menstrual periods – Periods become less frequent and eventually cease
Diminished interest in sex
Can I have a blood test for menopause?
While we can measure feminine hormones in the blood, these tests are of limited value as these hormones tend to fluctuate widely depending on where you are in your cycle. Instead of a blood test, menopause is diagnosed clinically when you haven’t had a period in 12 months.
How can I best deal with these symptoms?
Menopause affects everyone differently, 25% of women experience no changes at all except for the change in their periods, 50% of women experience mild to moderate menopause symptoms, and 25% of women have severe symptoms.
There are certain measures you can do yourself to help manage your symptoms:
Eat a balanced diet
Stress management and relaxation exercises
Using lubricants or aids to make sex comfortable
Pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the bladder
For those who are struggling with the symptoms of menopause, it may be worth discussing this with your GP to discuss what treatment options there are.
The main treatment for menopause symptoms is called Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). This basically involves giving a small dose of oestrogen and progesterone (the female sex hormones) to relieve menopausal symptoms. This is safe for most women but be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of heart disease or breast cancer. If HRT is not right for you there are other medications and treatments that can be considered.
What else should I be aware of?
The lack of oestrogen in your body can also lead to other issues that it is important to be aware of. In particular, oestrogen is good for your bones and after menopause (especially if it is earlier than normal), some women develop osteoporosis (thinning of the bones which can lead to fractures). After menopause, it is important to have your bone density measured every few years. This can be arranged by your doctor by ordering a DEXA scan.
After menopause, women are also more susceptible to heart disease, including heart attacks. If you have a menopause which is earlier than usual, it is worth seeing your doctor to discuss your heart disease risk and see if there is anything you can do to improve your heart health (eg stop smoking, treat high blood pressure/cholesterol)
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.
The Royal Women’s Hospital. 2018. About menopause. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/menopause-information/menopause-an-overview/. [Accessed 04 May 2018].
Women’s Health Queensland. 2018. About menopause fact sheet. [ONLINE] Available at: https://womhealth.org.au/conditions-and-treatments/about-menopause-fact-sheet. [Accessed 04 May 2018].
Australasian Menopause Society. 2018. Fact Sheets – Australasian Menopause Society. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.menopause.org.au/health-info/fact-sheets. [Accessed 04 May 2018].
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