What is menopause?
Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when your ovaries stop producing eggs, your periods stop, and your body rearranges its hormonal structure. The level of oestrogen and progesterone in your body declines. This results in a number of menopause symptoms to rear their heads, crawl into your body and call it their home.
Menopause starts courting you anytime between the ages of 40 to 60, although for most women 51 is the lucky number. If your periods have become elusive, or are inconsistent for 6 months, menopause seems to be on the cards. It can be confirmed only after 12 months of their complete absence though.
While the natural indicators of your periods stopping and your menopause symptoms making their grand appearance are enough to indicate that menopause has started, there are certain other ways you can confirm this. Consulting your doctor or gynecologist is a guaranteed way to know definitely if menopause has come calling, or the cause lies somewhere else. Your GP will most likely ask about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing, ask you to keep track of your periods, and in some cases, if you prefer, go for a test for menopause.
What are some of the menopause symptoms?
You can detect menopause from the symptoms you might start experiencing right form the perimenopausal stage (which is the first stage on menopause, followed by menopause itself, and then postmenopause). Hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, irregular periods, thinning hair, vaginal dryness, low libido, mood swings, and weight gain, are some of the irritating menopause symptoms you might notice.
While your periods become irregular due to perimenopause, there is still the possibility of getting pregnant, however slim. It is especially possible if you're not using contraception of any kind, or if you’re not on the pill. It is better to check for pregnancy if you’ve missed your periods, just to rule it out.
Menopause does not need tests for the most part, menopause symptoms are enough of an indicator to confirm if you’re in menopause. A doctor can of course help you confirm if your symptoms are indeed caused by the menopause and to help you to manage and stop them from interfering with your daily life. Your GP can also help you map out the course for what your future life with menopause looks like.
Getting a physical
It is advisable to keep a diary of all of the symptoms you might be experiencing, along with their frequency and intensity. Keeping a tab on your periods is a must as that is the biggest indicator of menopause manifesting itself in your life. It is also something your doctor will ask for sure. Taking into account and writing down the medications you might be taking will help your doctor with their diagnosis as a number of medications as well as ailments can cause your periods to fluctuate or stop altogether.
It is important that you choose a doctor that you feel comfortable discussing your symptoms with, as a lot of it can be very personal.
Menopause symptoms do not just manifest physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.
While seeking help for physical symptoms is considered as common sense, mental and emotional help still has a stigma attached to it. It is important that you don't just dismiss these but actually discuss them with your doctor and ask for ways to manage them. Sexual problems are another factor that people, especially women, can find difficult discussing openly with a stranger…. even if they are your doctor. But it is important to remember that these are just the symptoms of menopause, and are as natural as can be. Your doctor will not judge you for going through them, nor should you judge yourself. Just ask for help, and it will be given. Admitting to experiencing these symptoms will help your doctor diagnose if it is indeed menopause or not.
The ph level of your vagina is usually tested to know if you are in menopause. When your ovaries produce eggs, the ph level of your vagina is around 4.5. During menopause it is known to rise up to 6. So it a good indicator when trying to diagnose menopause. It is also important to rule out other conditions such as thyroid and ovarian failure. A lipid profile, thyroid function test, tests for liver and kidney function and a blood test to check your levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen, are some of the tests used to detect any health condition after the onset of menopause.
Hormonal tests for menopause
If the question that keeps haunting you is ‘How do I test for menopause?”, we’ve got you covered. There are a number of hormonal as well as blood tests for menopause, as well as menopause testing kits.
A blood test to check your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen is prescribed to diagnose menopause. Your oestrogen levels are known to fall during menopause, while your FSH levels rise. These tests can also help diagnose any pituitary problems. A blood test to check your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is also prescribed, as hyperthyroidism can also cause symptoms very similar to those of menopause. So this test helps rule out that possibility. A test called PicoAMH Elisa test is also used to detect or predict the onset of menopause.
Premature menopause starts before the age of 40, while early menopause is usually between 40 to 45. Premature or early menopause can occur due to autoimmune diseases, chromosomal defects, removal of your uterus or ovaries and radiation therapy for cancer like chemotherapy.
Blood tests for early menopause are usually recommended if you haven’t had your periods in more than 3 months and you are under 40. It can also be caused due to different reasons other than menopause, so it is better to get tested. Premature or early menopause can make you more prone to contracting various diseases and ailments such as diseases of the heart, osteoporosis (an increase in your possibility of getting bone fractures), and various other health problems like stress, anxiety and depression.
Along with the physical symptoms you can consult a therapist to deal with your emotional or mental symptoms of menopause. Your GP can administer menopause depression tests to help you confirm the diagnosis and to help you treat it.
Menopause is a natural part of your life that does not need to be cured. As long as your menopause symptoms do not interfere with the normal working of your life, you might want to consider menopause as natural and get on with life. However, if your symptoms are disrupting your life, it is important to consult your doctor so that a proper course of medication or treatment is prescribed. Hormone treatment can be recommended especially if you have an onset of premature or early menopause.
A number of menopause symptoms can be dealt with simply by altering your lifestyle to fit your growing needs. Hot flushes are the most common of all menopause symptoms. You can deal with them by making a note of the various foods that might trigger your hot flushes and making sure you avoid them like the plague. Drinking cold water, or altering your environment so that you're in a cooler temperature when you experience a hot flush can also help you deal with it.
Your sex life can take a hit during menopause due to a low libido and dry vagina. Using lube can be a life saver and can reignite your sex life. Talking to your partner or a therapist can also help. It is also important to have a well rounded diet to encompass the growing needs of your body. Along with getting your nutrients from food, you could also opt for some menopause supplements to make sure you do not develop any deficiency.
Avoiding caffeine, and other alcoholic beverages is recommended as it might trigger your hot flushes and hamper your sleep cycle. Smoking should also be avoided as it might also increase the frequency and intensity of your hot flushes.
Exercise, yoga, and meditation should be a part of your life so as to keep a number of your menopause symptoms like weight gain in check. They can also release ‘happy hormones’ that help with the mental symptoms of menopause and balance mood swings. It can also help you keep away from certain symptoms of menopause for a longer period of time. Getting ample amount of sleep can also help in maintaining your weight as well as keeping your head on straight. The amount of sleep you need can vary from person to person, but usually 7-9 hours is the recommended amount.
Menopause can be an intrusive presence in your life. Usually tests are not needed to confirm menopause, as the symptoms are enough. But if you’re not sure, you could consult your doctor who might recommend the proper tests to not only detect if you are experiencing menopause, but can also help rule out other ailments that you might be susceptible to at the phase of life you might be going through. If menopause is found to be the culprit, there are various lifestyle changes you can make to keep your menopause symptoms in check. You can also opt for various medications and treatments. Whatever helps you live your best life, that’s what we recommend.
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