After the sprouting of the breasts and the appearance of armpit and pubic hairs, the next external evidence of femininity is the menses. However, this monthly shedding of the lining of the womb must cease at a stage called menopause. From the age of 40 (it varies widely; average is 52years in the UK), it becomes erratic before it stops finally. It is not a one-off event, it happens gradually over a period of up to 10years. Menopause is complete when menses has been absent for 12 months in a row.
For those who see the menses as a chore, pain or disturbance of daily activities; it would be a good riddance! As for the majority of women who just love to have it every month, because it’s a clear sign of fecundity, menopause can be a very distressing phase of their lives. Talking about distress; the mere disappearance of menses is not the only source of worry in menopausal women. The associated signs and symptoms can range from mildly discomforting to outright severe.
These signs and symptoms are the results of the intricate relationship between the menstrual cycle and the overall wellbeing of a woman; mediated by chemical substances known as HORMONES. Let’s look at some of the features of menopause:
*Sexual dysfunction: decreased libido, painful sex etc.
*Vaginal dryness and atrophy
*Thinning of the skin
*Psychological symptoms: mood swings, insomnia, lethargy etc.
*Decreased bone density- risk of fractures *Cardiovascular diseases
*Urinary tract problems
*Increased risks of some cancers(rarely)
Unfortunately, some women attain menopause even much earlier than 40 (premature menopause). The good news is, most of the symptoms of menopause can be ameliorated with medical (hormone replacement) and/or psychological therapy. In fact, there is still a slight possibility of a menopausal woman successfully getting pregnant; naturally or through assisted reproductive techniques. Menopause does not preclude physical activity and a healthy and fulfilling life.
Husbands, close relatives and health workers have major roles to play in supporting women while passing through this transition. Don’t make the mistake of equating menopause to old-age. Women can happily outlive menopause by several years. Like our people would say:
K’osi arugbo ni Ghana…!