Biological Changes during Menopause
Menstrual bleeding occurs through the reproductive age in women after which it stops to mark a period of incapability to conceive. Mwampagatwa (2014) explains that menopause is the permanent cessation of menstruation that signifies the inability of ovarian follicle development occurring between 40 and 52 years of age. It is diagnosed retrospectively after 12 months of amenorrhea and often associated with vasomotor and urogenital symptoms (Santoro & Randolph, 2011). Menopauses similarly to menarche are normal occurrences in women’s lives, even though they can be rather stressful. As a result, women should have adequate information on what occurs in their bodies, how it manifests itself, and how to handle this natural occurrence.
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The physiological changes that happen before and during menopause are a result of hormonal interactions. The ovarian oocytes undergo atresia throughout the life of a woman, which causes the decline in both the amount and quality of follicles leading to the reduction of estrogen production (Mwampagatwa, 2014). Follicle-stimulating hormone increases, while estrogen sensitivity of the ovaries reduces as a level of the luteinizing hormone does not rise when the ovaries completely fail to produce any follicles. These physiological changes in the body begin gradually when a woman starts to experience variations in the occurrence of her regular menstrual cycles until permanent amenorrhea becomes steady and the effects of hormonal changes affect both the reproductive system and other parts of the body (Wilson & Giddens, 2013). The skeletal, cardiovascular, urinary, and the gastrointestinal systems are also affected by the manifestation of symptoms sometimes warranting medical attention (Nicks et al., 2010). Artificial menopause can also occur when the ovaries are surgically removed or after radiotherapy or chemotherapy as a way to treat some conditions (Mwampagatwa, 2014). Therefore, women may experience the manifestation of menopausal symptoms that may worry women who could have not accessed adequate information regarding the issue. However, it is normal when such things occur; the only problem is that one should understand how to handle them.
Symptoms of Menopause
The symptoms start to appear when hormonal changes that precede menopause begin to happen before amenorrhea ceases entirely. At first, women begin to experience increased variability in the length of their menstrual cycles followed by increasing frequency of longer than regular periods until the permanent cessation of menstruation occurs (Mwampagatwa, 2014; Wilson & Giddens, 2013). The onset of this menopause transition period should be a sign to help women prepare for the occurrence of menopause. Harlow and Paramsothy (2011) restate that early transition onset is characterized by changes in the length of the menstrual cycle mostly after 40 years of age; it is defined as persistent variations in consecutive cycles of at least seven days occurring some years before the menopause (Harlow & Paramsothy, 2011). Typically, the late transition is associated with episodes of at least 60 days of amenorrhea around two years before the menopause. Therefore, noting the variation in the length of the menstrual cycle is enough to signal the impending menopause for one to get prepared.
Many other signs and symptoms affecting both the reproductive and other body systems occur during the menopause. Thurston and Joffe (2011) explain that night sweats and hot flashes are the cardinal symptoms of menopause, which present the episodes of profuse heat, excessive flushing, and sweating mainly around the neck, upper back, and the head. However, not all women experience these symptoms. Vaginal atrophy and dryness may cause painful sexual intercourse and together with the reduction in libido sexual challenges may happen. Some women may also undergo some memory lapses, emotional instability, and sleep disturbances (Santoro & Randolph, 2011). Menopause also poses a risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases, and may also increase the likelihood of getting urinary infections.
Response to Menopausal Manifestations
The first thing is to understand that menopause is not a disease but just a normal physiological change in the process of aging. Leading a healthy life and adhering to the healthy lifestyles and adequate emotional preparation before, during, and after the menopause can be a huge step towards eliminating the issue. Physical exercises can help reduce the amount and intensity of hot flashes (Mwampagatwa, 2014). Together with healthy diets, physical exercises reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and the worsening of osteoporosis. Vaginal lubrication can ease dryness that causes pain during intercourse. However, if the manifestations are unbearable, it is better to seek advice or treatment from a healthcare provider.
Having adequate information about menopause is essential to tackle the difficulties. Menopause is marked by the complete cessation of menstrual cycles due to the variations in body hormone levels. The presence of long and irregular cycles is a sign of the forthcoming menopause that the women should note. Females may experience hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, reduced libido, and pain during sexual intercourse because of vaginal atresia and dryness. Leading a healthy lifestyle and being prepared emotionally can improve the adjustment period.