I AM experiencing irregular periods
now. I am in my mid-forties. Am I
having menopause? My friends say I
cannot be having menopause because
menopause comes with "hot flashes".
Every woman experiences menopause
differently, and menopause isn't a single
one-off event. It's an accumulation of
It can start as early as in the 30s or as
late as the 60s. Most women experience it
during their 40s or 50s. There are grandmothers in rural areas at the age of 60 still
getting pregnant and giving birth!
You cannot say you are having
menopause now because you have only
one symptom of menopause. A woman
may experience signs and symptoms of
menopause well before her periods stop
permanently. But it's safe to say that once
you don't have your period for 12 months,
you've had menopause.
Why does menopause occur?
When you age, your ovaries make
decreasing amounts of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, the ones
which regulate your menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy.
Menopause is divided into:
Perimenopause -- beginning from the
time when you start experiencing
menopausal signs and symptoms. You
may still be ovulating during this time.
Your hormone levels are uneven and your
periods are irregular. This part may last
four to five years or
Postmenopause -- When you
have had 12 months of no period, you
are considered to have reached
menopause. Then the years that follow
are called postmenopause.
Other than irregular periods, what kind
of symptoms will I experience with
Every woman experiences menopause differently, so her signs and symptoms
are also going to be very different. You cannot compare what your mother or
sister went through with what you are going
Some women have very few symptoms.
Other women suffer greatly. But the
things you generally have to look out for
Irregular periods -- Some women stop
menstruating suddenly. Some find their
menstruation tapering off. Yet other
women find their menstruation getting
heavier for a while, and then stopping
But it's safe to say that if your periods
have been regular and predictable, and
they suddenly become irregular and
unpredictable, this might be the first sign
you are going through menopause.
Decreased fertility -- You become less
likely to become pregnant. Anyway, this
happens with age.
Vaginal and urinary changes -- Your
vaginal and urethral tissues become drier,
thinner and less flexible. This is caused by
decrease of the hormone oestrogen. You
may experience burning or itching in the
area because there is decreased vaginal
fluid to lubricate it.
Sexual intercourse may become painful
or difficult. There is also an increased risk of vaginal or urinary tract
infections. Not all women will
Hot flashes -- Again, this is
caused by dropping levels of oestrogen.
Your blood vessels may expand, causing
more blood to rush to your skin. This can
lead to a feeling of warmth that moves
upwards from your chest to your shoulders, neck and head ("hot flash").
Your face is flushed, and red blotches
may appear on the affected skin. This may
be associated with sweating (including
night sweats), chills and weakness. Some
women even feel slightly faint. Most hot
flashes last from 30 seconds to several
Sleep disturbance -- Some women
experience difficulty falling asleep or
sleeping well through the night.
Weight gain -- Some women gain about
3kg on average during menopause. The fat
that was once in your hips and thighs
may settle around your waist instead.
Your breasts may sag. Your hair may thin
and your skin may wrinkle. All this is
because of dropping oestrogen.
Emotional and memory changes --
Some women are irritable, tired and have
problems with memory and concentration.
My mother says that if I don't have children, I will get menopause earlier. Is
No. But there are some conditions that
can hasten menopause.
If you have your womb and ovaries
removed for any reason at all, the removal
of your ovaries will hasten menopause
simply because oestrogen is not produced
anymore. When you remove your womb
alone, it doesn't cause menopause.
If you have had chemotherapy and
radiotherapy for cancer, this can induce
About 1% of women also experience
menopause before age 40 due to genetic
factors or autoimmune disease. This is
called premature menopause.
Is there anything I can take for
Yes. Hormone therapy relieves the symptoms of menopause. The newer hormone
therapies are safer than the older ones.
Ask your doctor to tell you your options.
As for your diet, you should eat plenty
of vegetables, grains, fruits, and calcium.
This will help combat osteoporosis.