Something practically inevitable in a woman’s life is the onset of menopause – the name given to the natural interruption of menstruation. It is caused by the interruption of the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones by the ovaries, which leads to numerous changes in the body.
According to Dr. Alexandre Rossi, gynecologist and obstetrician responsible for the outpatient clinic of General Gynecology at the Hospital and Maternity Hospital Leonor Mendes de Barros, the period that involves menopause is called climacteric. “In this phase, which marks the passage from the reproductive phase to the non-reproductive phase, menstrual cycles become irregular, until the definitive interruption of the menstrual cycle, the so-called post-menopause”, she explains.
The process begins around the age of 30, when the ovaries gradually reduce the production of estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate menstruation. At this stage, fertility also begins to decline. also, fertility is decreasing. From the age of 40, changes in the menstrual period may begin, with longer or shorter cycles, and also more or less frequent. After a few years, menstrual cycle failures will come.
Menopause doesn’t always happen naturally or on time, explains Dr. Alexander. “There is the so-called early menopause, which occurs before age 40. In these cases, the cause is not always known. It can be a genetic, autoimmune, infectious issue or also as a result of treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or as a result of surgeries”, he clarifies.
The specialist reveals factors that can cause early menopause:
Removal of uterus: for various medical reasons it may be necessary to remove the uterus. In these cases, and if the ovaries are also removed, menopause will be immediate. If the ovaries are preserved, they will continue to release eggs and produce estrogen and progesterone. But in a short time, menopause will come.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy: a cancer treatment that includes chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also induce menopause. In these cases, the interruption of menstruation and fertility will not always be permanent. Therefore, it is worth talking specifically about the topic with the doctor before starting treatment, to check the details and what to do.
Other causes: the ovaries can stop producing hormones due to genetic factors, autoimmune diseases, or even without any known cause. Still, these women will enter menopause, probably early. After medical evaluation, hormone therapy may be indicated.
Main symptoms of menopause
In climacteric, some complaints are common, causing discomfort in different degrees. In addition, the gynecologist points out that the differences between what each woman feels and the level of discomfort can be great. For this reason, it is important that there is individualized medical follow-up, so that each woman can receive the best guidance for her case, bringing much more comfort and making it possible to go through this phase with a better quality of life.
The Doctor. Alexandre cites the main complaints of this phase:
- Menstrual changes;
- Heat (hot flash);
- Itching, vaginal dryness, reduced libido;
- Decreased breast size;
- night sweats;
- Mood swings, anxiety, irritability and depression;
- Decreased self-esteem;
- Weight gain;
- Slowing down of metabolism;
- Dry skin and thinner hair, emergence of pimples;
- Decreased skin elasticity;
- Increased porosity of bones;
- Decreased memory;
- Urinary incontinence.
When to seek help?
In addition to routine consultations, the doctor warns that it is important to seek a doctor if you notice irregularity in the menstrual cycle. In addition, it is ideal to consult a professional if one or some of the symptoms are present in the woman’s routine.
“It is possible that many women go through this period without the need for any intervention, as menopause is a natural process of the female organism. There are also some tips that can help through simple changes in life habits, including the practice of physical activity and the inclusion of some foods on the menu”, adds Alexandre.
In other cases, hormone therapy, popularly known as hormone replacement. That’s because this treatment is especially indicated for the reduction of hot flashes, through the administration of estrogen or the combination of estrogen and progesterone, as the doctor explains.
“This replacement can only be done with the indication of a specialist, and after carrying out specific exams, in addition to the evaluation of health history and family history”, he highlights. This is because hormone replacement is contraindicated in some cases.
The specialist cites women who have already suffered a heart attack or compromised coronary arteries, who have liver disease, a history of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, stroke or uncontrolled high blood pressure. For these cases, there are options for non-hormonal therapies, including herbal medicines, homeopathy and acupuncture, points out the doctor.
Looking at the menu
A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can bring many health benefits. In addition, it helps to go through some of the climacteric symptoms with more comfort. Therefore, the gynecologist recommends including foods such as:
- Grains, such as almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, and pistachios
- Dark leafy greens such as broccoli and kale
- Skimmed milk and derivatives
- Fish, especially tuna, salmon and sardines
- Soy and derivatives such as tofu
- cranberry juice
How to reduce other discomforts
To reduce other complaints, there are specific tips that may provide more comfort. The Doctor. Alexander reveals the main ones:
Menopause heat: Due to the drop in estrogen levels in the body, the feeling of heat and intensified sweating can be alleviated with the use of light and comfortable clothes. Therefore, the ideal is to opt for fabrics made of cotton or suitable for sports, avoiding synthetic fabrics and tighter clothes. “Physical activity is also excellent for improving hot flashes and increasing well-being,” he says.
Collagen drop: the reduction of collagen production at this stage can lead to a more accelerated appearance of wrinkles, hair loss and weakening of the nails. The doctor advises avoiding very hot baths and keeping the skin well hydrated. “Sunscreen, even in winter or to stay at home, is indispensable, especially on the face and hands”, highlights the specialist.
sexual relations: Complaints here are related to decreased libido and reduced lubrication, effects of loss of elasticity in the vaginal canal, collagen loss and thinning of the skin in the genital region. “For all these issues, the gynecologist may suggest specific lubricants or other alternatives to circumvent the discomfort”, points out the professional.
Anxiety, insomnia and depression: in climacteric, several physical and psychological issues may interfere in the woman’s daily life, leading to a series of questions. In fact, it is not uncommon for sleep difficulties, mood swings, emotional instability and other issues to arise. “Again, these are matters that must be taken to the doctor’s office, who will present treatment options or, when necessary, indicate other professionals for multidisciplinary care”, she concludes.
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