A woman goes through a roller coaster ride throughout her life whenever there are some changes in her hormonal levels right from onset of menstruation to pregnancy to menopause. The changes that occur during menopausal years and thereafter are totally overwhelming since the body of a woman goes through major changes.
The female hormones – estrogen and progesterone begin to deplete and finally secretion of estrogen comes to an end. This end of estrogen secretion brings out a lot of physical, emotional and mental changes in a woman’s life.
Physical Changes During Menopause
Hot flushes are quite common among the women throughout the world. It is the sudden sensation of feeling heat in the upper parts of the body which is characterized by a flushed face, profuse sweating and a general sense of not feeling well. Hot flushes generally occur after menopause when estrogen levels drop dramatically but they can also occur during perimenopausal years too.
Irregular periods are another common feature of menopause. It occurs during the perimenopausal years. The intensity of the menstrual flow and the timing of the periods become irregular at this time. A woman may experience periods quite before her expected date or late or can have light bleeding one month and very heavy bleeding the very next month. Mostly, heavy bleeding is accompanied with blood clots.
Loss of Libido
Libido or sex drive in a woman is a result of complex interplay of three hormones – estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (androgens) in a woman. When these hormones begin to deplete the sex drive also begins to dip. The dip in hormones also causes vaginal dryness and the act of intercourse becomes painful for a woman. This demotivates a woman to indulge in sexual activity.
Normally, a woman’s vagina remains wet which makes it easy to penetrate during intercourse. Vaginal tissues are elastic in nature which helps in comfortable sex and child birth. Both these natural traits of a woman’s vagina begin to change during and after menopause.
The dip in estrogen leads to a dry and itchy vagina and the elasticity of the vaginal tissue also decreases and the vagina begins to shrink. This is known as vaginal atrophy. Along with pain the dryness can cause bleeding during or after sex and a general feeling of discomfort. Vaginal dryness can be treated easily. Some over the counter creams or coconut oil or olive oil when applied tropically helps in reducing vaginal dryness.
Estrogen is responsible for production of magnesium in body which relaxes muscle. When estrogen levels drop, magnesium production also drops automatically and leads to disturbed sleep.
Besides, progesterone is also responsible in body for sleep and lack of progesterone during menopause leads to disturbed sleep.
Disturbance in hormones lead to dizziness also. In some women dizziness is accompanied with hot flushes while some women experience dizziness without experiencing hot flushes also. Besides, hormonal changes bring a change in vessels of nervous system which leads to dizziness, lightheadedness, problem in balancing body, etc.
Menopause brings changes in appearance also. A woman may experience hair loss at a rapid speed. Her hair may become thin, dry and brittle. Besides, menopause can lead to hirsutism also. Hirsutism is the condition when women get facial hair like men on their chin and upper lips. These hairs can be quite dark, coarse and apparently visible like men.
A woman going through menopause may feel extreme tiredness all the time. She may have had a good night sleep and still she may feel quite tired to do day to day chores. Fatigue can lead to irritability, stress, memory loss and drowsiness.
Menopause leads to weight gain around abdomen rather than thighs or hips. A woman gains between 4.5 to 8Kgs during menopause. It happens due to some other associated factors also like a woman exercises less during menopausal years, tends to eat comfort foods like sweets and chocolates due to mood swings, may feel too drowsy to exercise for an extended period of time, etc. However, right diet and exercise can help in losing weight.
Night sweats are like hot flashes in nature wherein a woman experiences profuse sweating but they appear during nights when a woman is asleep and are much more intense in nature than hot flashes. Generally night sweats are so intense that they wake up a woman from her sleep and drench her entirely with sweats.
A continued pattern of this nature leads to disturbed sleep and sleeplessness. However, controlling triggers like stress, caffeine, alcohol, tight clothing, spicy foods can bring relief in frequency and intensity of night sweats.
Emotional and Mental Changes During Menopause
The mood regulating neurotransmitter – serotonin gets affected by the dip in estrogen level because estrogen affects the production and regulation of serotonin. This leads to mood swings in women during menopause. A woman may feel suddenly happy or suddenly sad and irritated. She may experience uncontrollable anger at times may feel guilt sometimes and begin to cry. Mood swings are also triggered by other menopausal changes like hot flushes, lack of sleep, fatigue and stress. These mood swings are short spanned and a woman remains on a roller coaster ride of varying emotions.
Irritability is an extension of mood swings. While mood swings may comprise of a mix of different emotions irritability is the state of being irritated for no apparent reasons for a longer period of time. This irritability reflects in behavior of the woman and makes her difficult to deal with.
Mental confusion is also quite common among menopausal women. A woman may forget things, feel lack of concentration in whatever she does or may feel disoriented generally. It happens because estrogen affects the production and regulation of neurotransmitters responsible for cognitive function in a human body. When estrogen level dips, the production of the neurotransmitters like Acetylcholine, norepinephrine and serotonine also decreases.
Most of these changes subside after perimenopausal years but some symptoms like weight gain may persist after menopause. Certain lifestyle and dietary changes can bring relief from most of these changes.