Every woman will experience menopause. Like so many other things, it’s part of the natural cycle of life. Some women notice little change in their body during this time, and some notice lots. For the later group, this can be downright unbearable. This month is all about menopause, why it happens and what women can do to care for themselves during their journey.
What is it?
When a woman’s body stops having a menstrual cycle due to the aging process (typically between the ages of 45-55, although it can happen at younger and older ages), we call this menopause. It is defined as the time when there has been no menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months and no other biological or physiological cause can be identified (medicinenet.com).
Why does menopause happen?
Menstrual cycles stop, during menopause, because the woman’s ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesteron. This is a completely natural process however, it is common to come with some unwanted symptoms because of these hormonal changes.
Quick, open a window!
Hot flashes are a well-known symptom of menopause. Let’s break down this and other symptoms and why they happen:
Hot flashes/Night sweats
Hot flashes are thought to happen due to the decrease in the hormone estrogen. For a more technical explanation, I turned to Heathline.com:
“For most women, this decrease is gradual. Many experts believe that when estrogen falls, the hypothalamus section of the brain that regulates your body temperature detects too much body heat. Some theorize that the brain then releases hormones to help lower body heat. This causes your heart rate to rise and blood vessels to dilate in order to allow more blood to flow through and dissipate the heat. The increased blood flow causes the body to produce its natural cooling method: sweat. This series of events creates that heated, sweaty feeling that can be so inconvenient for women.”
Read more on this interesting article from healthline.com.
During menopause, vaginal tissues become thinner. It’s known as atrophic vaginitis or vaginal atrophy. The tissues are more easily irritated, resulting from (yet again!) the natural decline in a woman’s estrogen levels. Read more at ourbodiesourselves.com. They have an in-depth article on this topic and also give you some tips if you are experiencing dryness (tips on all these symptoms to come, next week, in our blog!)
This is quite a common symptom and many times is a result of other symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety and depression. It could be a primary symptom, however, as hormones regulate so, so much in our body…including our sleep cycle. Read more about this from sleepfoundation.org.
Many times, changes in mood is the first sign a woman is starting menopause. Irritability, depression, anxiety and crying are all common. This can be directly related to hormones. However, the thought that one can no longer bear children can carry a lot of grief and sadness with it. Read more about this from medicalnewstoday.com.
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Rachel was born and raised in St.Paul, MN, where she currently lives with her husband, Chris and Shih Zhu, Stewie. She graduated from Northwestern Health Sciences in 2017 with her Masters in Chinese Medicine. Rachel found Chinese medicine on a journey to understand and tend to her own anxiety and depression and now has a passion for helping others who experience a similar reality. She enjoys treating a wide variety of conditions and welcomes anyone looking for care.