My mother delivered me when she was 40 years of age. Back in the day, conceiving a baby at that age was branded a "change of life" baby. As a young teenager, I began to notice my mother's unusual behavior. Very often, she seemed bewildered and experienced episodes of uncontrollable crying, depression, and anxiety that seemed to appear out of nowhere. She misplaced items and was terribly forgetful. She didn't sleep much, preferred not to hang out with a crowd of people uttering people made her feel jittery, and could not for the life of her, figure out why she was gaining so much weight.
One of my most vivid memories of my mom was watching her suddenly become drenching-wet from head to toe. The only relief that would ease her discomfort was her handy-dandy handheld fan that would temporarily temper what I now understand to be hot flashes. Just the mere thought of those days, conjures up images of my wild-eyed and sometimes erratic and unpredictable mother. When I would gently ask what was wrong, she would hastily reply, "I'm just going through the change." Menopause wasn't a subject that your mother spoke in great detail about so I knew that was the only explanation I was ever going to get.
So what is menopause? If you're a women it's most likely an inevitable and unavoidable cycle of your life. Menopause is defined as the point in time when menstrual cycles permanently cease due to the natural depletion of ovarian oocytes from aging. The diagnosis is typically made retrospectively after the woman has missed menses (her period) for 12 consecutive months. It marks the permanent end of fertility and the average age of menopause is 51 years.
Web MD explains that one of the most common symptoms of menopause is hot flashes. Expert board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, Nancy Allen, M.D., whose medical practice, Lane Women's Health Group, located at 400 Foote Ave., says hot flashes can be treated.
"Menopausal symptoms particularly hot flashes, often precede menopause which occurs on average at 51 years of age," Allen said. "Hot flashes can be treated with hormonal therapy for example, estrogen or non-hormonal medications such as anti-depressants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any bio-identical or herbal treatments. Vitamins, exercise, acupuncture, and reflexology may have many benefits. However, the evidence that they are effective treatments for menopausal symptoms is lacking. Vaginal symptoms primarily dryness and pain with intercourse can also be treated with over-the-counter lubricants or estrogen products."
Whether you have gone through menopause naturally or have experienced surgical menopause (removal of both the uterus and ovaries), there are ways to stay healthy, comfortable, and happy during pre, peri, and post menopause:
Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits and whole grains.
Ask your doctor about vitamins, calcium and iron supplements.
Keep well-hydrated with ice water.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Be physically active on a daily basis.
DO NOT SMOKE!
Dress in layers to decrease the symptoms of hot flashes and wear light clothing at night time.
See your gynecologist annually (or more regularly if needed).
Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy.
Get preventive care screenings including blood pressure, osteoporosis, and cancer (breast, cervical/pap test, colorectal) screenings.
Sometimes I am approached by men who beg the question, "My wife is in menopause. What can I do?"
I always welcome the men who are eager to find a solution for their partner's discomfort. Here are some helpful tips for the men:
Know the signs of menopause. Know the symptoms of menopause (mood swings, depression, night sweats, hot flashes, disrupted sleep). Be sensitive and caring while she is going through these episodes of discomfort.
Don't take it personally. It's not about you or your relationship. It's about symptoms that often times she doesn't even understand.
Express your feelings. Let her know you are feeling over-whelmed by her discomfort. Explain that you feel hurt by her behavior toward you. Support each other during this time.
Understand that too will pass. Understand that this is only a temporary time in her life and the best is yet to be.
Today, there's no mystery about menopause; it is an inevitable part of a woman's aging process. If you are bothered by menopause symptoms, embrace these helpful instructions that can alleviate the natural process of menopause and talk to your doctor.
Just like a roller coaster ride, menopause will scare you sometimes, but right after the scary climb, comes the calming, reassuring feeling that the ride is finally over.
Toni DeAngelo, R.N., Community Health and Wellness director at WCA Hospital, is a certified tobacco cessation specialist and patient navigator with more than 30 years of experience in critical care nursing and community health. Help to alleviate menopause symptoms, contact your doctor or call Toni DeAngelo at 664-8677.
We invite our readers to submit a question or health topic of interest for WCA Health Talk by visiting the WCA Hospital website at www.wcahospital.org and clicking the Contact Us button at the top, right-hand side of the home page to submit your questions, comments or suggestions.
This health column in no way seeks to serve as a substitute for professional medical care. Consult your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guideline.