There’s a good reason why menopause is referred to as “puberty’s evil older sister,” an obstetrician-gynecologist explains.
If girls have to deal with unsightly acne, painful menstrual cramps, and uncontrollable mood swings in their teens, middle-aged women endure years of hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, incontinence, memory problems, and weight gain from a slower metabolism.
“But menopause can also be an empowering experience that offers benefits that far outweigh the discomfort of hot flashes,” says Arlene Ricarte-Bravo, MD, of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department of Makati Medical Center.
According to Dr. Bravo, menopause is a natural biological process that occurs after perimenopause, or the stage where shifting levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone results in irregular periods, heavier or lighter flows, insomnia, and weight gain.
“Perimenopause happens in the 40s and lasts from months to years until menopause,” she explains. “Menopause period varies from woman to woman, but the average age is 51.”
Symptoms may vary as well. Some experience the whole nine yards; others just one or two. And while these symptoms may last for years, they are only temporary and can be addressed with lifestyle changes and home remedies, depending on the doctor’s advice.
Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone cause the dreaded symptoms of menopause. “HRT (hormone replacement therapy) helps restore hormonal levels, thus relieving a woman of the symptoms,” says Dr. Bravo.
"Menopause can also be an empowering experience that offers benefits that far outweigh the discomfort of hot flashes."
HRT comes in tablet, patch, implant, and gel form. It’s recommended to discuss with one’s doctor the pros and cons of taking HRT. Bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, mood swings, nausea, and vaginal bleeding are among its side effects. HRT is also not advised for women who have had cancer, stroke, blood clots, heart or liver disease, and heart attack.
Keeping one’s cool is also important especially since hot flashes come unannounced.
“Wear clothes made of light, breathable fabrics or dress in layers that you can remove and put on again,” advises Dr. Bravo. She adds to bring a tumbler of iced water when going out, try to stay in well-ventilated places, and avoid hot and spicy food.
Further, an hour of moderate exercise daily targets many of menopause’s symptoms. “It keeps your weight down, releases endorphins or happy hormones to elevate your mood, makes you sleep better, and strengthens your bones, which are prone to becoming brittle due to lower levels of estrogen,” Dr. Bravo points out.
The expert recommends including Kegel exercises in the routine. Otherwise known as pelvic floor exercises, Kegel strengthens the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum—thereby lessening risks of accidentally peeing or passing gas.
How do you know you’re doing Kegels right? “When you sit on the toilet, to pee, hold the flow for a few seconds by contracting your muscles, feeling a ‘lift’ inside your vagina, then release,” says Dr. Bravo.
Eating balanced meals that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, as well as giving up bad habits such as smoking help in managing menopause symptoms, as well.
Finally, Dr. Bravo recommends keeping a positive attitude and looking at the silver lining.
“Many of my patients are thrilled to be free of their monthly periods—no more sanitary napkins, tampons, and dysmenorrhea,” shares Dr. Bravo. “Others admit that intimacy with their partner has gotten better because they no longer worry about getting pregnant.”
However, older women should also watch out for signs of vaginal atrophy (or the drying and inflammation of vaginal walls due to the lack of estrogen) which may cause dyspareunia or painful sexual intercourse.
“I find that women in their 50s have achieved a quiet confidence,” concludes Dr. Bravo. “They’re self-assured and don’t sweat the small stuff like menopause symptoms, which they have come to accept as a part of life and temporary inconvenience.”
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.