Menopause comes with a host of physical and psychological changes. It’s also a time to celebrate, reconnect and renew.
Every woman will face menopause at some point, whether it comes naturally as part of the aging process or is induced due to circumstances beyond the woman’s control, such as hysterectomy.
Menopause tends to occur in three phases: perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause. Perimenopause occurs before the end of menstruation. Some women may experience significant changes in their monthly cycle and begin to see other symptoms, such as menstrual irregularities, mood changes or changes in sexual function.
With menopause comes a host of physical and psychological changes. Mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats and pain during intercourse are a few of the symptoms that can be unsettling and compromise quality of life. These changes should be brought to the attention of a trusted physician, who may be able to offer options for relief.
Menopause also can be viewed as a time to celebrate. The risk of pregnancy has diminished, which can open new doors in a woman’s intimate life. Though physical shifts related to hormone changes might bring on issues such as vaginal dryness, changes in breast tissue and thinning hair, some women feel an increase in sexual desire and pleasure. It is important to note that while the risk of pregnancy may have ended, protection against sexually transmitted infections is still needed.
Some women may struggle with menopausal changes and mourn the loss of functions that feel vital. They may feel disconnected from their lives. Alecia Graves, M.D., OB/GYN, illuminates this fear: “It represents loss of youth.”
There are ways to alleviate these fears and physical changes. Hormone replacement therapy can help some women. Others may prefer to focus on lifestyle changes, such as physical fitness and eating a healthful and well-balanced diet, as well as maintaining a healthy intimate life.
“The most important thing is to stay active as much as possible. Libido and intimacy is about so much more than hormones. It really is an issue of if you don’t use it, you lose it,” Dr. Graves said. “There are things that can help, like vaginal estrogen and lubricants.”
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It is important for women to continue to seek enjoyment in life and find time for self-care and renewing the spirit. Taking time for a massage, enjoying favored activities and getting proper rest can help a woman accept these changes as natural.
This can be a time to start new creative endeavors, join clubs and maintain support networks that may have been put on hold while family or career was front and center.
Most important, women should avoid spending these years in isolation. Support groups, the companionship of friends and open lines of communication with a spouse are all helpful ways to stay connected to self.
“Menopause is different for every woman. Talk to your doctor, because what works for your friend may not be right for you,” Dr. Graves said. “A good relationship with a physician and special attention to self-care can make the transition to menopause one of ease.”