A year of battling depression
Elizabeth Sululu, 48.
For Elizabeth, menopause meant the time when a woman’s menstruation stops for good. That is all she knew.
“I did not have enough knowledge about menopause. Three years back I started experiencing changes in my body. I would feel hot when others felt normal or even cold. I also experienced panic attacks, especially when I had an argument with my husband,” says the mother of three.
Elizabeth missed her periods and her body would ache most of the time. It never crossed her mind that she could be pregnant because she had been on family planning. Four months later, the situation got worse, prompting her to seek medical advice.
She sought the opinion of two different doctors from two different hospitals but none seemed to have a clue on what could be troubling her.
“I was only given medication to ease the pain, which did not help much. Six months of missed periods and serious body pain made me visit a gynaecologist who made it clear that I was at menopause stage.”
The gynaecologist gave her some medication to help regulate the hormones. “The doctor explained to me that if I missed my periods for 12 months continuously that would confirm it was menopause.”
For a year, Elizabeth struggled with mood swings as she tried as much as possible to control her temper, especially during arguments. She says it was not easy and that she lost many friends in the process because she hated a lot of people for no reason.
“I also hated using my phone. I ignored many calls even if I knew the caller needed help. It was a year and a half of depression during which I hated life the most.”
Through doctors’ advice, Elizabeth was able to cope with the situation. She is happy now that she can control her temper unlike was the case a year and half ago.
Early menopause caught her by surprise
Amina Dudu, 39
A year ago, Amina thought she was pregnant after missing her period for a whole month. She had all the symptoms of a pregnant woman in her first trimester. She could not believe it when a pregnancy test at the hospital turned negative.
Three months passed and the mother of two did not get her periods. This was accompanied with lack of sleep, mouth dryness and digestion problems.
“I decided to go to my doctor who suspected it could be signs of early menopause. He told me to relax and keep myself busy as I waited for my periods, which never came. After another three months I went back to the hospital and my doctor confirmed it was early menopause.”
Amina is glad that the doctor educated her about menopause symptoms and what to expect. He also asked her to come with her husband during the following visit so he could talk to the two of them. “We did as the doctor requested and had a long chat with him.”
Although Amina is still confused as to what made her hit menopause early, she has accepted the situation and is still learning to cope.
The doctor advised Amina and her husband to be patient with the process. As for the lack of interest in sex, he advised the couple to spend enough time on foreplay, which Amina says has been working for them.
“It is not an easy life. Waking up with moods and stressed for no reason and being constipated for more than three days. I am hoping for the best as my doctor told me that with time, my body would adjust to the changes and that some symptoms might disappear. As for my periods there will be no turning back the hands of time.”
Already knew what was coming
Salma Juma, 49
Salma started missing her periods at 47. The mother of three was not taken by surprise because she already knew a lot about menopause.
“I just knew it was menopause when it happened as I had enough information about it. I learn almost every day about my body changes since I live with hepatitis B.”
Salma says she had read a lot about menopause on the internet and that she had asked different questions around this subject since she knew she would one day be part of it; “ And here I am.”
She says at first she did not think it could be menopause since she had been used to having irregular periods due to her medical condition.
“Since I have always been struggling with hepatitis, my panic button has always been on for years. My family and friends are used to me and none of them pays attention to me even when I am saying something important.”
So when menopause started with all its mood swings, Salma just knew what it was and tried to overcome the blues at home without seeing a doctor.
She says whenever she visits her doctor for hepatitis, that is when she also gets the opportunity to ask questions that are bothering her in connection with menopause.
“It has never been an easy journey. But it feels good to finally reach this stage given that I have been sick for a long time. I share the challenges that face women at menopause stage whenever I get time to meet women my age. I want them to have a smooth journey with menopause.”
It helps to seek medical attention
Dr Living Colman, Gynaecologist
The gynaecologist with Muhimbili National Hospital says he has been attending to menopausal women for a long time.
“Six out of ten women (who are not pregnant) that I attend to in a month come to the hospital without the slightest idea they are at menopause stage. It is a topic that the society does not talk about. Since it is something that happens to older women people consider it a taboo,” says the doctor.
This silence, the doctor says affects the wellbeing of many women who are not well informed on the subject. He mentions among symptoms to watch out for as including muscle tension, fatigue, anxiety, gum problems, lack of sleep, bloating and body odour. Others are panic disorder, irregular heartbeats and depression.
Menopause normally starts from age 45 after which a woman may experience the symptoms for up to two years. However, the doctor says there are extreme cases, where it can take up to four years for the symptoms to disappear.
“It takes long because women suffer in silence without seeking help. Consulting a doctor early helps a lot in overcoming the menopause blues.”