Menopause is an unavoidable fact of life for every woman. However, for many women this natural process causes anxiety and distress due to the varying symptoms that can accompany it.
The good news is that there are many options available to help women manage the symptoms of menopause. Read on to discover the facts about menopause, and what you can do to reduce any disruption to your lifestyle.
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs when the body stops producing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It typically occurs in women in their late 40s or early 50s, however this not a definite rule – the age when menopause occurs can vary.
During the time when the body is transitioning into menopause, hormone production for the ovaries begins to decline. Periods become intermittent, sometimes starting and stopping a number of times. This is known as perimenopause.
Symptoms of menopause may start to appear during perimenopause, however women are considered to have entered menopause when they have had no menstrual periods for one year.
What can cause premature menopause?
Premature menopause can sometimes occur in women younger than 45. It can be triggered by a number of factors including:
- Family history
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Surgical removal of the ovaries
- Autoimmune disorders including Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease and Crohn’s disease
- Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
What are the symptoms of menopause?
During menopause, the absence of reproductive hormones results in a number of changes within the body. Some of these changes can lead to significant physical discomfort and emotional distress.
These changes can include:
- Hot flushes. These refer to a sudden feeling of heat in your torso, neck, or face. Red blotches may appear, and you may feel uncomfortably hot and sweaty.
- Mood changes. As your body tries to adjust to the lack of oestrogen and progesterone, you may experience erratic mood swings that involve crankiness, tiredness, and tears.
- Osteoporosis. Oestrogen plays a key role in stimulating the growth of your skeleton and maintaining healthy bones. A decline in oestrogen can cause significant decreases in bone density, leaving you more susceptible to fractures.
- Reduced sex drive. Some women lose interest in sex, finding it difficult to get aroused during menopause. This can lead to relationship difficulties, which compound the feelings of being ‘turned off’.
- Vaginal dryness. The decline in oestrogen levels can cause your vagina and vulva to become dry, and your labia to become thinner. This can cause irritation, itching, a burning sensation, or pain during sex.
- Vaginal atrophy. The changes in hormones during menopause disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina. The walls of your vagina can become thinner, which reduces their elasticity and blood supply. The protective mucosa of the vagina can also lose hydration and thickness, which causes a loss of lubrication. The symptoms of vaginal atrophy can include dryness or itchiness, burning sensations and irritation, fissuring of the opening around the vagina, and pain during sex.
It’s important to remember that menopause affects each woman differently. Some women may experience few symptoms, while others may be impacted on a greater scale.
Treatment for menopause
For women who do experience significant symptoms, a range of effective treatments are available.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT involves replacing some of the missing oestrogen (sometimes combined with progesterone) with pharmaceutical formulations of these hormones. It is available in various forms such as tablets or skin patches for more general symptoms, or as cream or pessaries for vaginal symptoms.
Consideration should be taken before deciding on treatment, as some women experience side effects from HRT. These include breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, nausea and headaches. Additionally, HRT can increase the risk of certain health problems such as stroke, breast cancer, or blood clots.
Your gynaecologist may recommend HRT depending on your personal situation and medical history. Talk to a gynaecologist for advice on the right treatments for you.
Alternatives to HRT
Various treatments exist for a range of menopausal symptoms. Also, lifestyle factors play a role in reducing the impact of menopause on your body. Keeping active, reducing stress, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and staying in cooler temperatures all help to reduce discomfort.
Additionally, MonaLisa Touch is a non-invasive alternative to HRT for the treatment of symptoms related to vaginal atrophy. By gently acting on the tissue of the vaginal mucosa, the laser stimulates collagen production, improves functionality, regenerates vaginal tissue, strengthens the vaginal wall, and restores the proper pH balance.
The MonaLisa Touch is a 5-minute treatment that involves no downtime or discomfort. It’s delivered over three courses spaced a month apart. Northside Gynaecology in Brisbane offers this treatment as a quick and effective solution to symptoms of vaginal atrophy.
Common symptoms such as dryness and irritation are greatly reduced or disappear altogether with virtually no side effects. The resulting vaginal improvements from MonaLisa Touch mean surgical procedures such as labiaplasty and vaginaplasty may be avoided in some cases.
What to do next
Contact Northside Gynaecology to find out more information about managing menopause. Fill in our contact form, or call us on 07 3088 9005 to book an appointment at one of our convenient Brisbane locations in Kedron, North Lakes, or Caboolture.