When menopause make an early visit

Saturday August 11 2018

Monica James talked about experiences with

Monica James talked about experiences with early menopause. PHOTO | DEVOTHA JOHN 

By Devotha John

The age of menopause is a time of many changes in the psychophysical-social functioning of women, with reduced ovarian hormonal activity and estrogen levels.

The most common, troublesome symptoms of menopause age include depressive disorders, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, discomfort associated with muscle pain, joint aches, osteoporosis and characteristic of hot flashes alongside decreased libido.

Menopause is never an overnight event. It is a process that takes between one and four years but some women can take up to 10 years experiencing the stage.

Monica James, 40, says she started sweating and experiencing joint aches together with hot flashes, noting, however, that she was oblivious about menopause signs.

“I was ignorant about menopause signs neither did I ever receive education about the biological change. Since I was a mother of two, I initially thought, the changes were due to hormonal abnormalities,” says Monica.

It’s impossible to say how long it took for Monica to embark on the road to menopause, because she was obviously going through the process before she realised, but after 12 months of no period, her doctor confirmed that her conditions were menopausal.

She says it was impossible to decipher that chilling experience, noting that at 37 years old she had spent over 12 months without seeing menstrual periods.

“It was a chilling experience, indeed. During the night things were even much worse. I used to sweat profusely. I thought of stripping off my night dress but could not see any substantial changes,” she says.

She notes that her husband advised her to go for check-up, explaining that after a thorough diagnosis the doctor opened up to her that she had started experiencing early signs of menopause.

“My blood was taken for hormonal examination, all to be told I had entered the menopause stage. The counseling and spiritual support I received from my family members and physicians really helped me through this stage,” notes Monica.

What is menopause?

Sanitas Hospital gynecologist, Dr Suzana Gervas Kajeri says menopause is a point in time when menstrual cycles permanently cease due to the natural depletion of ovarian oocytes, a cell in an ovary which may undergo meiotic division to form an ovum, over-aging.

She says the diagnosis is typically made retrospectively after a woman has missed menses for 12 consecutive months, noting that it marks the permanent end of fertility and the average age of menopause is 51 years.

Premature Menopause

There is a possibility of premature menopause due to bone density caused by lower estrogen levels that lowers sexual dysfunction, says Dr Kajeri adding that women experience occasional periods and elevated follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) over fewer eggs in their ovaries, a situation which happens at the age of 51.

The doctor says women who often smoke are at higher risk of experiencing early menopause.

Symptoms of premature menopause

Menopause symptoms include changes in menstruation, which are different for every woman. Most likely, you’ll experience some irregularity in your periods before they end.

Dr Kajeri says skipping periods during perimenopause is common and expected, noting that often, menstrual periods will skip a month and return, or skip several months and then start monthly cycles again for a few months.

He notes that periods also tend to happen on shorter cycles, so they are closer together. Despite irregular periods, pregnancy is possible.

“If a woman has skipped a period but isn’t sure she has started the menopausal transition, she must consider a pregnancy test,” the doctor advises.

According to Dr. Suzana, when a woman comes for menopause tests the physician is duty-bound to ask about her historical background, examine the patient by checking the hormonal level, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, which is checked in the pituitary gland, whose function is to develop follicles in woman ovaries.

“Due to this, most women have few signs of premature ovaries failure. In this case the diagnosis will involve physical and pelvic examination. Sometimes it will include chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” she says.

She adds that the condition is also associated with increased risk of various ailments such as coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, colorectal cancer, total mortality, global index of chronic diseases.

The physician had it that women who experience premature menopause are likely to get pregnant unlike the ones who are in late menopause.

Coping with the condition

Women who are in premature menopause can get rid of the malady by eating nutritious food stuff. Dr Kajeri notes that drinking water may decrease bloating plus adding food rich in calcium and vitamin D.

She says cheese, beef, fruits and vegetables, brown rice, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods are not advised for women going through early menopause as they are likely to trigger hot flashes and urinary inconsistence.

Speaking about mechanisms to cope with physical and psychological disorders caused by menopause, the doctor notes that, the victims are supposed to engage in physical exercises like yoga, relaxation and meditation alongside being close with family members; these all may serve the purpose.

She calls on women to also undergo estrogen therapy, stating that the combination of hormones is likely to increase the rate of bleeding but may hardly restore ovarian function, explaining further that, depending on one’s health and preference, one might take hormone therapy until around the age 50 or 51 — which is the average period of natural menopause.

“There’s no treatment proved to restore this premature ovarian failure complications. It’s important to understand and seek grieve counseling if one needs it,” she says.

Dr Fredrick Mashili, a physiologist from Muhimbili University of health and Allied sciences (MUHAS), says “during this period a simple fall can cause more fracture, this is because the bones became very weak this is due to the lower level of estrogen since its presence contributes a lot towards the bones being strong.” He therefore cautions women to be very careful during this period.

Zena Charles, 45, says she started experiencing mood changes. At times she would feel angry, expounding that she didn’t even want to talk to anybody, including her husband, but all to learn she was swirling with menopause signs.

“I was facing different problems, including mood changes. Apart from that my period was heavy; sometimes it’d last for 14 days. In other instances it’d come once in a while and cease altogether, something that made me feel so irritated after not seeing them for a year,” she says.

Zena says she went for medical check-up and was told that she had hormonal imbalance, explaining that she was given some pills alongside thorough counseling—and was advised to take food rich in vitamin D, fruits and vegetables.

“I started taking the pills and I truly witnessed some dramatic body changes but things turned for the worse as time went by because the case had not yet been nipped in the bud,” she explains curtly, adding that after being examined she was found to have experienced hormonal changes, the signs she had initially thought as normal ailments.

She says she used to sweat throughout the night and was always sleepless but could not easily understand she was in a menopause period.

“Due to these chilling mood swings I had to seek medical advice, which required me to go through a number of examinations, including radiation, estrogen therapy. I thank my physicians and my husband for their relentless support,” says Zena.