Natural aging processes impact life in different ways, and women between the age of 45 and 55 are likely to experience the effects of menopausal transition. The onset of menopause has different effects on different women – for instance, some do not experience symptoms, while others experience multiple symptoms. Here is a brief overview of this natural phase of life, and available options for relief from the symptoms.

What are the first symptoms experienced during or before the onset of menopause?

Menopause typically begins one year after the last periods of a woman. There are various indications that a woman may experience prior to menopause during perimenopause. For instance, you might experience problems while sleeping, abnormal changes in mood, weight gain, unexplained sweating in the nights, irregular periods, dryness in the vagina and sudden warmth in the upper body. The last symptom – warmth in the upper body, also known as hot flashes is perhaps the most common symptom, with more than two thirds of women experiencing hot flashes.

If you are aged between 45 to 55 and are experiencing some of these symptoms, it is an indication of perimenopause or menopausal transition.

How long does menopause last? What are the changes experienced during this period?

Typically menopause lasts for around 7 years, but is also known to last for as much as 14 years. During this period, women are more prone to fractures, as bone density reduces. One of the most common effects that is experienced during this phase is weight gain. The body uses energy in a manner that is different from the phase before menopause, and consequently there is change in fat cells, resulting in rapid or gradual weight gain. All of this is attributed to the hormones – estrogen and progesterone – made in the ovaries.

Are these effects only caused by menopause?

Menopause is triggered due to the change in the levels of hormones in the body. This could be age related or this could also be as a result of removal of the ovaries, surgical removal of the uterus. Women who undergo these procedures typically receive hormone replacement therapy. Women who do not undergo hormone replacement therapy, are likely to experience effects similar to that of menopause.

What are the chances of early menopause?

Around 1% of women experience POF, or premature ovarian failure before the age of 40, while early menopause sets in for another 5% of women between the ages of 40 and 45 years. Presently, there are no clear reasons for early onset of menopause in women.

What are the options for managing the symptoms associated with menopause?

There are multiple options for managing the symptoms associated with menopause. This includes HRT, antidepressants, vaginal estrogen and medications to prevent osteoporosis, among others.

What is the effectiveness of vaginal estrogen?

Vaginal estrogen in cream form helps in releasing the required amount of estrogen to the vagina, where it is absorbed by the tissues/mucous membranes. This helps manage vaginal dryness, discomfort during sexual intercourse and helps overcome problems associated with urination. The vaginal administration of estrogen is regarded as an effective, fast acting and relatively long acting option for management of symptoms that are associated with menopause.

All forms of HRT are exogenous and vaginal administration of estrogen is similar to distribution of endogenous estrogen. In other words, estrogen is made inside the body and distributed in various target organs. HRT involves administration of estrogen from an external source, which mimics the distribution of internally made estrogen and reaches all the targeted organs. Estrogen that is made internally is typically found in the breasts, uterus and ovaries. Estrogen that is administered externally also reaches the target organs in a similar manner.

How to use vaginal estrogen?

The ideal method of applying vaginal estrogen is to lay down on the bed facing up with the knees bent fully – soles of feet on the bed. Apply the desired quantity with an applicator and remain in the position for some time. You can also apply vaginal estrogen when in a standing position – stand with one feet raised on a chair, and apply the desired quantity.

Remember to apply only the recommended dose, as per the advice of your doctor. The dosage will differ and depends entirely on your symptoms and the desired results. Therefore, do not make the mistake of applying quantity that is not proportionate to your needs, but seek medical advice on the right dose.

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