Menopause is a normal event in a woman's life and occurs when the menstrual cycle stops permanently.
As the production of female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) starts to slow down, the menstrual cycle changes. Some changes can include:
- longer, shorter or totally irregular cycles
- lighter bleeding
- unpredictable or heavy bleeding.
Menopause can be an unsettling time, depending on your symptoms, but some women go through menopause without any problems.
Most women reach menopause between 45 and 55. However, there is no set age or duration for menopause, and symptoms vary.
Symptoms of menopause
You may experience:
- hot flushes or night sweats
- aches and pains
- crawling or itching sensations
- mood swings
- lack of self-esteem
- reduced sex drive (libido)
- tiredness or difficulty sleeping—waking up or waking hot and sweaty
- urinary problems—urinary tract infections, frequent urination or incontinence
- vaginal dryness
- discomfort during sexual intercourse.
For some women the symptoms of menopause can be unpleasant.
Talk to your doctor or qualified health professional if you have concerns.
You can also help reduce symptoms through a healthy lifestyle that includes:
- a nutritious diet
- regular exercise, particularly of the pelvic floor
- not smoking
- stress management.
Post-menopausal women are more at risk of developing health conditions like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Osteoporosis is characterised by a decrease in bone density which can result in fragile bones and a risk of fracture.
Bone loss or reabsorption begins at around age 35. This is accelerated during and after menopause because of the reduced production of oestrogen.
It is important for you to eat a calcium-rich diet and do regular weight-bearing exercises to ensure your bones are strong once you start menopause.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia's post-menopausal women.
Oestrogen helps to protect you from cardiovascular disease by correcting levels of good and bad cholesterol, and increasing the flow of blood through the body.
The drop in oestrogen that occurs with menopause reduces this protection.
You are even more at risk of cardiovascular disease if you:
- are smoking
- have a family history of the disease
- have excess weight
- do low levels of physical activity
- have high blood pressure
- have diabetes
- are stressed.