What you should know about menopause?

Menopause blues.

The sun shone gently through the half-closed drapes.

Outside, a bird was singing cheerfully.

It was a very beautiful morning indeed.

Yet somehow, for the woman still lying in bed, this morning seemed different.

She lay staring up at the ceiling with a sad look in her eyes.

For some unexplained reason, she felt that she wanted to cry.

She heard her husband’s footsteps as he came whistling down the hall.

But even that seemed to grate on her nerves.

“Time to get up,” he called out cheerfully.

When she failed to answer, he came to the bed and laughingly pulled the covers back a little.

“Come on, dear, time to get up.”

Suddenly, she sat up in bed and angrily cried: “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”

Before her startled husband knew what was happening, she fell back into the pillow and buried her face in it, sobbing as though her world had fallen apart.

The menopause blues

This woman was having a bad day during her menopause.

Usually, things are not as drastic as this, but when they are, the entire family is affected.

The husband does not know what to do; the children may be upset.

Yet the mother is the one having the bad experience.

An understanding of what is going on can help everyone concerned.

A lot of tales are circulated about the menopause.

One woman who has just come through it remarked:

“Often you suffer more anxiety from what people say than from the menopause itself.”

With proper information, no one needs to suffer unnecessary anxiety.

In English, menopause is often called the change of life.

But some object to that term.


Because it suggests that at this time life is somehow going to be completely changed.

This need not be the case at all.

True, some women feel a sense of loss that they will not be able to have any more babies.

But in their work, their marriage, their recreation and in many other aspects of life, things can be nearly the same afterward or, in some ways, even better.

Then again, calling it the change suggests that it is the only change that ever happens.

This is not true.

A woman’s life is full of dramatic changes, such as the onset of puberty, getting married and having a baby.

The menopause is another change in the series.

Hence, the German language has a kinder word for it: die Wechseljahre.

This means “the changing years.”

What are some things that all of us should know about a woman’s “changing years”?

● What are they?

They are the time when a woman’s monthly, or menstrual, cycle draws to a close, and with it her ability to bear children.

This is reflected in the word “menopause,” which is drawn from two Greek words meaning “month” and “cease.”

● What are they not?

The “changing years” are not the beginning of aging.

Age creeps up on us gradually.

When we are as young as 25, our fine muscle tone starts to deteriorate.

At 30, we start to lose muscle and bone tissue, and our hair may start to get gray.

These processes continue through the menopause and may be accelerated by it, but they are not caused by it.

And old age is still many years away from a woman of 40 or 50 who is experiencing menopause.

Furthermore, menopause is not a disease, although at times its symptoms may make it feel like one.

● What causes it to happen?

The body is adjusting to a new situation.

At puberty a young girl’s body begins to make hormones that stimulate her ovaries to supply mature eggs on a regular basis.

During the “changing years” the opposite happens.

The body ceases to produce the hormones, and the supply of mature eggs tapers off.

One of the hormones involved is estrogen.

If the supply of estrogen stops gradually, the menopause may be easy.

If it decreases rapidly, the menopause will usually be more difficult.

● When does it start?

For most women, it may start sometime between the ages of 45 and 55.

A few experience it before the age of 40, and even fewer experience it later than average, perhaps even in their 60’s.

Early menopause can be brought on by such things as surgery or poor general health.

Usually, a warning of things to come is signaled by irregularity in the monthly period.

For some this becomes more and more irregular until menstruation ceases altogether.

For the blessed few, it stops suddenly and that is all there is to it.

For others, it may become more frequent than normal, or weak and heavy periods may alternate in the time leading up to the complete cessation of the menstruation.

● How does it affect women?

According to gynecologist Dr. Johanna Perlmutter,

It is reassuring to know that most women go through menopause with relatively minor symptoms, if any.” (The Menopause Book)

That is good news, but what if you are one of those with more than “relatively minor symptoms”?

Dr. Perlmutter says: “Most of those with more serious problems can get help from their doctors.”

What are some of these “more serious problems”?

A common one is the hot flash.

This has been described as a sudden feeling of warmth that pervades the upper part of the body.

The face may flush up, and sometimes there can be profuse perspiration afterward.

The hot flash can come frequently—up to dozens of times a day.

It can last for just a second or so, or go on for minutes. At night the sufferer can wake up drenched with perspiration.

No one knows for sure the physical cause of the hot flash.

Is it traumatic?

In most cases, no.

The words women use to describe it are more like “a nuisance,” “annoying or even “exasperating.”

Other symptoms that may or may not be experienced include insomnia and sudden fatigue.

Numbness, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation and backaches are also mentioned, as are pains in the chest, tension headaches and vaginal dryness and irritation.

Is that a frightening list of symptoms?

Well, take comfort.

Most women have only a few of them, if any.

And even if you experience severe problems, there are usually ways to get relief.

What about depression?

Yes, some women do get mildly depressed during the “changing years”—usually so mildly that only they and perhaps their immediate family know about it.

They may start crying for no reason at all.

Or, perhaps, their husbands and children, whom they loved dearly the day before, suddenly become obnoxious and irritating.

Then, a normally well-organized woman may be temporarily forgetful and disorganized.

Or she may have inexplicable feelings of panic.

If you experience anything like this, remember that it is not all in the mind.

There is usually a biological reason for it.

So do not feel that you are losing control of yourself.

Give yourself time.

Such symptoms, although perhaps frustrating or demoralizing, are usually transient.

Relax and the feelings will pass!