Being a woman is not easy. Along with the enormous responsibility of childbearing comes the mess and fuss of menstruation (not to mention cultural issues and taboos that still plague women all over the world), which is then followed by the menopause. Rather than a seamless decrease of fertility, cessation of periods, and a calm resumption of pre-pubescence calm, menopause can be a trial. Every woman experiences it slightly differently, but most women share some or all of the following symptoms to varying degrees.
If you have ever been sitting in a chair that is suddenly exposed to the sun creeping across the room, you know what it is like to have a hot flush. The problem with them is that they can occur at any time of day or night, and whether you are sitting quietly, crowded into public transport, or engaged in physical activity. On warm days they can be unbearable, and even in winter, they can be very distracting. For women who have body confidence issues already, hot flushes can be debilitating and embarrassing, especially in a work environment, where professional dress and demeanor is expected.
Night sweats should not be conflated with ‘hot flushes’ as detailed above. While a hot flush can certainly cause night sweats, the term usually refers to episodes of sweating so intense that any clothing, bedding, and even mattress protectors are left damp. So a night-time hot flush will not necessarily be a ‘night sweat’. Night sweats can occur for reasons other than menopause, and people of any gender and any age can suffer from them.
The vagina is a marvel of engineering, being self-cleaning and self-lubricating for greater comfort. However, with the onset of menopause, the internal lubrication can decrease, which can lead to discomfort, a greater incidence of water infections, as well as pain and possibly bleeding during sex.
Mood swings can often strike a menopausal woman, with irrational bursts of anger, anxiety and panic attacks, and agitation occurring, even in women who are normally very calm and even-tempered.
Even though the menopause does not cause weight gain directly, it does tweak the body’s chemistry so that it is easier to gain excess pounds. Especially around the waist and thighs, and it is harder to lose them. Menopause is usually when other signs of aging make themselves known with a corresponding loss of athleticism and stamina, reduced bone density, and other lifestyle changes that can worsen the weight gain effect.
Need of Estrogen for Female Body
All of the symptoms of the menopause are a result of the loss of estrogen in the system. All humans have and need some estrogen, but the female body is designed to need and use it widely for reproductive purposes: from puberty and menstruation, to childbearing and breast-feeding, to and beyond menopause. However, after menopause, the natural estrogen levels in the body fall, causing the above symptoms. A steady estrogen supply keeps the whole body on an even keel, while fluctuations can cause problems.
Some women sail through menopause without turning a hair, but most women will suffer at least one of the symptoms at some point. Almost cruelly, menopause is not a simple state, being preceded by peri-menopause, when the reduction of estrogen begins to impact on the body. This phase can last a staggering ten years before hormone levels settle down once again.
For those women who are severely impacted by their loss of estrogen, hormone replacement therapy may be recommended. As the name implies, hormone replacement therapy uses artificial estrogen to boost the woman’s natural levels, reducing the severity of her symptoms: calming sweats and flushes, evening her mood. Even restoring vaginal lubrication so a healthy sex life can be enjoyed once more, and so on.
There is a very slight increase in the risk of contracting breast cancer with estrogen-based HRT. So it should always be taken under the guidance of a doctor who is aware of all the other medications and supplements that you are taking. However, the advantages are immense, with many women finding their joie de vivre is restored, along with their energy, sex drive, and general health.
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