Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Of Menopause

Menopause

Menopause: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Women undergo a natural decline in their reproductive hormones, and hence physical abilities, as they age. They might experience irregular menstrual flow, irritability, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. This will all ultimately lead to menopause – the end of a woman’s reproductive life. Menopause is characterized as the inability of a woman to get pregnant again and officially occurs 12 months after the onset of her last period. 

Menstruation and mental health are often tabooed, which has led to a lot of speculation and doubts regarding the matter. Many women are not confident, or privileged enough to consult a gynecologist on these matters, and hence many of their questions remain unanswered. To help such women, and in general create awareness about the topic, we have curated a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and reliable answers for the same.

Commonly Asked Questions

1) What is menopause? What are its different stages?

Menopause is a natural event that marks the permanent end to a woman’s fertility. It usually occurs between the age of 45 and 55 and is defined as the absence of a woman’s menstrual period for an entire year (12 consecutive months). Menopause, or a woman’s final period, is linked to the degraded functioning of the ovaries and a lower level of reproductive hormones in the body. 

Premenopause is the phase of life prior to menopause, and Post-menopause includes all the years after it. Perimenopause refers to the gradual transition between reproductive life and menopause, spread over many years.

2) What changes will I face as menopause approaches?

This question does not have a definitive answer as every woman’s menopause experience is different. Yet, some changes might be common for most of them. These include: 

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Weight gain
  • Memory issues
  • Mood swings
  • Irregular periods
  • Sexual problems
  • Headaches
  • Joint aches and pain
  • Difficulty sleeping

But many women do not experience any physical changes except irregular periods during perimenopause. Most of these changes are due to constant fluctuation in estrogen levels. Not all changes experienced are hormone-related, and some like hot flashes and memory flashes get better post-menopause. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during perimenopause is the key to minimizing these changes, and essential for preventing future complications.

3) What can be done about the facial hair I have developed as a result of menopause?

Some women might undergo an increase in the growth of facial hair during or after menopause. To avoid this from happening, you can consider taking botanical supplements that contain compounds like soy. These compounds tend to have effects similar to those of estrogen, reducing one’s menopausal symptoms and also providing additional benefits. You should however consult a doctor before using any medications, and be thorough with knowledge on their risks and benefits. 

There are also many hair-removal options available, such as waxing, threading, depilatories (cosmetic preparations like liquids or creams that remove hair from skin), and even laser hair removal. Again, do confirm with a doctor, preferably a dermatologist, to decide on the hair removal method most suited for you to prevent any ill effects.

4) Can menopause lead to a change in my voice?

Most women do not experience a change in their voice due to menopause. But, in very rare cases, some women can lose the upper register of their voice.

5) How can I counteract vaginal dryness?

Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM) is a collection of symptoms relating to changes in a woman’s vulvovaginal area (including the urethra and the urinary bladder). These changes can often cause vaginal dryness, urgent need to urinate, frequent bladder infections, and pain during intercourse, associated with a decrease in the body’s estrogen level. Vaginal dryness is the most common symptom of GSM and can lead to irritation. 

To prevent this, you should avoid using soap and powder on your vulva. Stop using anti-cling products and fabric softeners on your underwear, and also avoid unnecessary use of panty liners and pads. Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants might also help. However, if a problem persists, consult a healthcare professional. Vaginal dryness, as a symptom of menopause, can be treated using low-dose vaginal estrogen, or the oral selective estrogen-receptor modulator, ospemifene. 

Lack of estrogen and sexual activity causes the vagina to become dryer and smaller. The vaginal function can be protected by regular sexual activity which increases blood flow to the genitals and helps preserve the size of the vagina. To retain the moisture in your vagina, you can also try over the counter (OTC) vaginal moisturizers like Replens. In case of severe dryness, you can consult a doctor for vaginal DHEA or estrogen therapy. 

6) Should I discontinue contraceptives, as my menopause has begun?

Irregular periods do not necessarily mean the end of your reproductive life, and hence do not discontinue your birth control measures if you want to avoid getting pregnant. Perimenopausal women can still get pregnant unless administered the proper contraceptives. Use your usual birth control for an entire year post your last period, just to be safe. After that, you can opt for latex condoms to practice safe sex techniques and diminish the prospect of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

7) How will menopause affect my sex life? Will I be able to overcome it? If yes, then how?

A decline in your sexual desire and libido is expected as you age. Though not universal, menopause can be one of the factors contributing to it. The lack of interest can be associated with pain during intercourse and vaginal dryness. However, please note that there are a variety of personal, psychological, cultural, biological, and interpersonal factors that cause a decline in one’s sexual desire, and a professional opinion would be best for these concerns. 

You can experience problems with sexual interest, orgasm function, arousal, and pain, due to a decline in the estrogen levels during menopause. One can try lubricants, or even give local estrogen treatments (like creams, tablets, or an estrogen ring) a shot to treat said vaginal atrophy. Osphena, an oral drug is available and widely used for the same, as it makes the vaginal tissue thicker and less fragile, hence reducing the pain menopausal women might experience during intercourse.

These are some of the most common questions that women undergoing menopause might have. However, it is very much possible that this could have been unable to clarify all your doubts. It is hence recommended to consult a healthcare professional for these matters, as this article is no way a substitute for professional medical advice.

Conclusion

Menopause is a natural process that every woman undergoes in her lifetime. It is wrongfully tabooed and that should not stop you from seeking the medical attention and care you require. Be frequent in your visits to your gynecologist during your menopausal journey and you will have lesser menopause-related worries.