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Menopause signifies a pivotal transition in a woman's life, marking the end of her reproductive years. This natural phase brings with it a spectrum of changes, both physical and emotional, impacting every woman uniquely.

At Dr R Fuentes Medical practice, we recognise the importance of understanding and managing these changes effectively. Through comprehensive care and tailored support, we aim to ease this transition, ensuring each woman's journey through menopause is as smooth and informed as possible.

What is menopause, and when does it occur?

Menopause is the permanent cessation of menstrual periods, indicating the end of a woman's reproductive capability. Generally, it occurs between 45 and 52 years of age in 80% of women, although this can vary.

It can happen earlier, before 40 years, or even later than 52 years. The process might be gradual for most women, but in a few cases, menstruation may stop suddenly.

What is perimenopause, and how does it differ from menopause?

Perimenopause refers to the period leading up to menopause, often beginning in the mid-30s to 40s and extends into the first few years without menstrual cycling. This phase, also known as the climacteric period, spans approximately 10 to 15 years, during which the ovaries gradually reduce egg and sex hormone production.

Understanding this phase is crucial, as it encompasses various changes and symptoms preceding the complete cessation of menstruation.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause manifests through a range of symptoms affecting various body systems:

  • Urogenital changes: These include atrophic vulval changes, reduced vaginal secretions and susceptibility to infections, smaller uterus and ovaries, and genital prolapse.
  • Breast & Menstrual changes: Breast atrophy and changes in menstrual patterns are common. Ovarian cycles might become anovulatory, although ovulatory cycles can still lead to pregnancy.
  • Vasomotor symptoms: Hot flushes and sweating are significant symptoms caused by decreased estrogen levels affecting the hypothalamic temperature regulating centre.
  • Psychological symptoms: Menopause can trigger tension, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, depression, memory loss, and changes in sleeping habits.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: These may include appetite changes, weight gain, and dyspeptic symptoms.

What are the long-term health implications of menopause?

Post-menopausal women face increased risks of several health conditions:

  • Bone Density Loss: The decline in estrogen levels during menopause can lead to bone density loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Dr Fuentes emphasises the role of a calcium-rich diet and vitamin D supplementation to support bone health during and after menopause.
  • Sexual Health: Menopause can cause vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls, impacting sexual comfort. We encourage open communication with your partner about physical changes and explore solutions to maintain intimacy.
  • Emotional Changes: Building a support network of friends, family, or support groups can provide emotional support during this time.
  • Heart Health: Estrogen decline during menopause can increase the risk of heart disease. Dr Fuentes advocates for cardiovascular health through a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management.
  • Alzheimer's Disease: Some studies suggest that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may offer protection against non-familial Alzheimer's disease.

What does menopause management entail?

Management of menopause involves a holistic approach, focusing on both physical and emotional well-being:

  • Treatment & Care: This includes hormonal therapy tailored to individual needs, psychosocial adaptations, and a detailed explanation of the changes occurring during menopause.
  • Lifestyle Measures: Recommendations include regular exercise, a diet rich in calcium, and self-care techniques to manage symptoms.
  • Oral Contraceptive Use & HRT: During perimenopause, oral contraceptives manage irregular cycles and prevent unplanned pregnancies. Post-menopause, HRT can relieve symptoms, prevent osteoporosis, and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

What are the benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?

HRT in menopause management offers several benefits:

  • Reduction in osteoporosis risk and alleviation of vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Improvement in vaginal dryness and overall sexual health.
  • Positive impact on cholesterol levels and potential reduction in colon cancer risk.
  • Possible reduction in memory loss and protection against non-familial Alzheimer's disease.

If you're entering menopause or experiencing symptoms, schedule a consultation with us today to start your journey to comfortable ageing.