What is menopause? As intriguing and inquisitive as it sounds, there is not much known about it, except for the fact that it indicates freedom from periods.
However, there are several symptoms which mark the onset of health conditions, which arise out of it. Just to give an overview, menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycle. It is a natural biological process and can happen in your 40s or 50s. During this time, many females experience physical symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and reduced sex drive. These symptoms may start before menstruation ends, and they can last for several years.
There are 3 stages of menopause:
- Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause
- Menopause occurs when your body stops producing hormones that cause your menstrual period and has gone without a period for 12 months in a row
- Postmenopause is the time after someone has gone through menopause or your menstrual period has been gone for longer than 12 consecutive months
Come along as we talk about many symptoms and effects of menopause that we do not realise early on.
Here, I am in conversation with Dr Marlain, who is an expert on the subject and an award-winning Arabic Speaking Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist at King’s with extensive experience in Laparoscopic/Hysteroscopic surgeries.
In this video, she answers many questions that I have been asked frequently on my Instagram around Menopause and sheds light on so many problems that women suffer in silence, thinking they are the only ones going through this.
Some common symptoms are dry skin, hair loss, sudden redness of the skin, forgetfulness, and the list goes on.
The funny thing is we believe that menopause happens in the late 40s. Therefore, we don’t have to look into it earlier.
But in the late 30s, we experience perimenopause, which is a constantly changing phase transitioning into the hormonal imbalance that comes with menopause.
Of course, every woman has a different bracket of hitting menopause, but some of the common symptoms are experienced way before.
Dr Marlain addresses the elephant in the room, which is menopause, as referred to by her as the liberation of periods, but it comes at a great price. Some of the symptoms associated with this are hot flashes, redness in the skin, night sweats, reduced sex drive, vaginal dryness, and forgetfulness.
All these symptoms start showing before the age of 40, leading to a perimenopause stage. In some cases, women hit them very early due to endometriosis or surgeries like the removal of ovaries. Some other symptoms include irritability, brain fog, and snappiness, making one wonder if they are going through Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or hormonal imbalance.
Post consultation with doctors, they hand them anti-depressants and assure them there is nothing wrong with their hormones, as their periods are normal.
All these are some of the early symptoms of menopause, referred to as perimenopause, which the doctors fail to address. These are the symptoms that do not show up on a blood test and are an indication of hormonal imbalance.
She suggests hormonal replacement therapy, which has proven to provide improved protection to bones, skin, eyes, and brain decreases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50 to 80%.
HRT is important to lower risks, changes and problems associated with the physiological ageing process, but it is not the miracle drug that can get you back to the age of 20, which is a wrong notion among some women.
It also reduces the impact of breast cancer and helps in early detection as the women on HRT have regular check-ups and mammograms in comparison to women not on it.
She stresses starting with HRT during the onset of symptoms and recommends using estrogen creams, natural progesterone and a little bit of testosterone.
Research has shown the pivotal role testosterone plays in a women’s health. The hormone referred to as DHEA is a precursor to the male sex hormone testosterone, and the female sex hormone estrogen has proven to show a drastic improvement concerning forgetfulness, hot flashes and regulating the body temperature.
While conducting studies on women under the age of 40 who were in perimenopause and menopause, it was found that they showed significantly decreased brain activity, whereas the one with HRT showed improved brain activity.
She explains the various difficulties a woman goes through in her stressful work environment because of the perimenopausal changes she is going through at that moment.
In some cases, they are at risk of losing their job and in worst-case scenarios, some even stop working. However, in today’s world, when the life expectancy of women is 50 or 60, and they are still working, it is important to act on these issues and take good care of them.
She even highlights the poor health care system where these issues are not monitored closely and the doctors who fail to look into the depths of it.
Also, the research highlighted a very minuscule number of articles on the internet regarding hormones when looked up, which showed the lack of interest by the health department or anyone concerned in that particular domain.
She also points out the lack of investment and attention towards women’s health by making a remark on the decreased supply of testosterone, which is available in surplus for men, but not for women. Also, the decrease in demand for it as the doctors opting for HRT is very less. Our brain needs estrogen and testosterone for proper functioning and increased activity. Hence, the quantity of testosterone should be tailored accordingly, favouring both parties.
She accentuated the lack of research on the topic, when she stumbled upon a one-liner in the research study which mentioned, ” testosterone is useful for brain health when combined with HRT.
She, therefore, stresses the use of HRT after 37 as it has shown improvement in the productivity of several women, who was dealing with acute lethargy and fatigue.
It is, therefore, important to not consider this subject taboo anymore and be more open and vocal about it. It also raises an eyebrow at the leniency of the healthcare organization and doctors towards women’s health.
Also, the lack of education and knowledge about it forces a woman to put on a facade and go on with her life.
For example, discussing forgetfulness, brain fog, and decreased mental or physical activity amongst her peer or colleagues can put her job at risk or with her partner can cause trouble in their relationships and so on.