Women have numerous societal expectations in relation to their age. The pressure to settle down and conceive once they hit 35 is high coinciding with the ticking biological clock. Though most may choose to assume the ‘fertile age’, some are concerned about whether they will conceive or if age will catch up with them. Besides the possibility of infertility, some changes may go ignored until pointed out by the partners. It poses the question of how safe women are at this stage and if there are any risks experienced?
Menopause is a natural occurrence in women approaching the age of 40 though, 1% may experience it earlier (World Health Organization) either naturally or due to other contributory factors. The perimenopause phase marks the transition, and during this period, the menstrual cycle tends to be shorter or longer than usual. Contrary to the perimenopausal stage where the cycle length is irregular, in full-blown menopause, women no longer have their menses for twelve consecutive months because the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen.
The natural cause of menopause is the decline in reproductive hormones with age. At 30, estrogen and progesterone levels are in low amounts leading to fertility decline. Additionally, as from forty years, the ovaries stop releasing eggs resulting in no menstrual flow. Other unnatural factors are; hysterectomy (removal of reproductive organs), chemotherapy and radiation therapy that targets the ovaries, excessive alcohol intake, and smoking.
The unusual changes that occur as a result of this hormonal process are:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable
- Mood fluctuations
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain as a result of reduced metabolic rate
- Low libido
- Loss of vaginal muscles
- Breast tenderness
Once the symptoms set in, it is advisable to visit a health practitioner for proper diagnosis. Additionally, if bleeding occurs after menopause, screening for cervical or uterine cancer is highly recommended.
Despite this being a natural process, several health risks exist. Among them are:
- Cardiovascular diseases. A decline in estrogen levels results in slowed metabolism and uneven fat distribution, and this predisposes one to hypertension and other heart-related diseases
- Osteoporosis (brittle and weak bones). Estrogen is the hormone responsible for maintaining bone strength, and a reduction in the levels increases bone loss
- Urinary incontinence because of the loss in elasticity in the vagina and urethra
- Sexual dissatisfaction due to vaginal dryness and loss of elasticity. It can result in slight bleeding during sexual intercourse and a reduction in the desire for intimacy
Menopause not only affects the well-being of a woman but their partner as well. However, despite the several shortcomings experienced, not all is lost. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting accurate information can ease the process. Further, the use of a vaginal lubricant and kegel exercises can help you get your sex life back. No need to worry because life begins at forty, so make the most of it.