“Feelings of sadness overwhelmed me without reason or warning. I cried and wondered if I was going crazy.”—Rondro,* 50 years of age.
“You wake up in the morning and find your house is a mess. You cannot find personal things. What you had been doing with ease for years, now seems so difficult, and you don’t know why.”—Hanta, 55 years of age.
THESE women were not ill. Rather, they were going through the menopause transition, a natural change in a woman’s life and the end of her fertility. If you are a woman, are you approaching that time of life? Are you going through it? Whatever the case may be, the more that you and your loved ones know about this transition, the better equipped you will be to meet the challenges associated with it.
The Menopause Transition
The menopause transition, also called perimenopause (around menopause), includes both the period leading up to menopause and menopause itself.* In common usage, however, “menopause” often refers to the entire transition.
Most women start perimenopause in their 40’s, but some do so as late as their 60’s. In most cases, menstruation ceases gradually. Because of the erratic production of hormones, a woman may skip periods, bleed at odd times, or have extra-heavy periods. A small number of women stop menstruating abruptly, almost overnight, as it were.
“Each woman’s menopause experience is different,” says Menopause Guidebook. It also states: “The most common menopause-related discomfort is the hot flash (sometimes called a hot flush),” which may be followed by a cold chill. Those symptoms can disrupt sleep and sap energy. How long do the discomforts last? According to The Menopause Book, “some women get a few hot flashes for a year or two around the time of the menopause transition. Others suffer for many years, and a very small percentage report occasional hot flashes for the rest of their lives.”*
Because of fluctuating hormones, a woman may also experience depression and mood swings, resulting in weepiness, as well as poor concentration and lapses in memory. That said, “it’s highly unlikely that any one woman will get hit with everything,” says The Menopause Book. Indeed, some experience few, if any, problems and discomforts.
How to Cope
Simple lifestyle changes may reduce some discomforts. For example, smokers may decrease the number of hot flashes by giving up tobacco. Many women also benefit from dietary changes, such as limiting or even avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and spicy or sugary foods, which can trigger hot flashes. Of course, it is important to eat well, which means having a balanced and varied diet.
Exercise can also be a big help in reducing menopausal symptoms. For instance, it can reduce insomnia and foster significant improvements in mood, as well as in bone strength and general health.*
“There is no need to suffer in silence,” said Rondro, quoted earlier. “If you talk openly with loved ones, they will not worry too much when they notice what is happening to you.” In fact, they may be more patient and understanding. “Love is patient and kind,” says 1 Corinthians 13:4.—Good News Translation.
Many women also benefit from prayer, including those who are grieved by their loss of fertility. “[God] comforts us in all our troubles,” the Bible assures us. (2 Corinthians 1:4, The New English Bible) Also comforting is the knowledge that the menopause transition is temporary. Afterward, women who continue to take good care of their health may find renewed energy and enjoy many more years of quality life.
Names have been changed.
Menopause is considered by doctors to have occurred after a woman has not had a menstrual period for the preceding 12 months.
Certain medical conditions, including thyroid disease and infections as well as certain drug therapies, can also cause hot flashes. It would be wise to rule those factors out before assuming that hot flashes are menopause related.
To help their patients cope better through the menopause transition, doctors may prescribe various products, such as hormones, dietary supplements, and antidepressants. Awake! does not endorse any product or therapy.