A New Look at Menopause Symptoms
The causes of your symptoms might not be what you think.
Many midlife women, during the years before and after menopause, are plagued with emotional and physical symptoms. If you're woman in midlife with any of these problems, this article can help you discover what could be the cause.
Problems can include memory, depression, hot flashes, insomnia, low sex drive, weight gain, and many more. The question is, are these symptoms related to menopause, or could it be something else?
Memory problems such as forgetfulness, and lack of concentration, have been explained as the results of perimenopause and menopause. But the truth is, there are many conditions that can cause memory problems, including stress, depression, untreated high blood pressure, alcoholism, thyroid disorders, and anemia. Others causes are sleep deprivation, side effects of over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl, and prescription medications such as sedatives, antidepressants, anxiety medications, diet pills, and herbal medications.
In my experience as an intuitive gynecologist, being forgetful may be your inner wisdom trying to remind you that something is being overlooked. So, take a good look at your life. Are you in control of things? When the problem or imbalance is resolved, or time has healed the pain, your memory can be as efficient as it was before.
Menopause is a normal part of life, just like puberty. It is the time of a woman's last period, but symptoms can begin several years before that, and symptoms can last for months or years after. Some time around age 40, you might notice that your period is different. Or, without warning, you might find yourself feeling very warm during the day or in the middle of the night. Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone, two female hormones made in your ovaries, might lead to these symptoms.
This time of change, often called perimenopause, can begin several years before your last menstrual period. It lasts for one year after your last period, the point in time known as menopause. A full year without a period is needed before you can say you have been "through menopause." Postmenopause follows menopause and lasts the rest of your life.
Menopause doesn't usually happen before you're 40, but it can happen any time from your 30s to your mid 50s or later. The average age is 51. Smoking can lead to early menopause. Some types of surgery can bring on menopause. For example, removing your uterus (hysterectomy) before menopause will make your periods stop, but your ovaries will still make hormones. That means you could still have symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, when your ovaries start to make less estrogen. But, when both ovaries are also removed (oophorectomy), menopause symptoms can start right away, no matter what your age, because your body has lost its main supply of estrogen.
-- National Institute on Aging
Depression is a complex disease that may develop for a variety of reasons. It can affect anyone at any age, regardless of ethnicity, gender, income level, or race. It is more common among middle aged women compared to women of other age groups. Underlying depression can get worse during midlife.
If you have a history of depression, or you've tried antidepressants and are still depressed, don't attribute it to menopause. You need to ask yourself what your body is trying to tell you, and find the root cause of your depression.
It is important to seek help if you think you are depressed. Treatment of depression includes lifestyle changes, self-help strategies, seeing a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist, and receiving medications.
Decreased libido or low sex drive is usually very complex. There are many factors that contribute to sexual difficulties. The brain is our primary sex organ. If you are not in the right mood, tired, or having difficulties in any aspect of life, especially marital conflict, sex drive will suffer.
Libido is affected by alcohol, recreational drugs, and medications used for depression and anxiety, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft.
Because of decreased estrogen levels before and after menopause, some women can have vaginal dryness and intercourse pain, and tend to avoid sexual contact. Her partner's fear of causing pain can lead to his own sexual problems, including impotence. However, even without hormone replacement, if a woman has frequent intercourse, her vaginal mucosa should remain healthy. The use of lubricants, and estrogen when indicated, will keep the vagina healthy and less prone to infection, and makes vaginal penetration more comfortable.
In case of marital conflict, both parties will benefit from seeing a marital counselor.
If you're gaining weight or having difficulty losing weight and don't understand why, you certainly are not alone.
Most medication has side effects, possibly including weight gain. It is not uncommon to gain at least five pounds when starting a new medication. The most common causes for women are antidepressant SSRIs and hormone-related medications such as birth control pills, Depo-Provera injections, hormone replacement therapy, and antipsychotic drugs.
Stress can cause weight gain. Stress has many causes, including your relationship with your children, relatives, work or career, your intimate partner, your lifestyle, your spiritual life, your financial situation, and your environment, .
Weight problems also can arise from hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, or a sedentary life. Of course, inadvertently ingesting too many calories can also be the culprit.
It's normal for people to gain some weight with aging. But, if your weight gain is excessive despite all your efforts, take a good look at your eating habits, exercise routine, and any new medication you're taking. Be an informed consumer. Before taking any prescribed drugs or over-the-counter medication, think about the possible side effects, one of which could be weight gain.
Although hot flashes are most associated with perimenopause and menopause, they have been known to occur in women of all ages. It is not uncommon for women to experience hot flashes before their periods and during pregnancy.
Midlife is the time where your inner self is trying to rise from the survival mode to your higher spiritual enlightenment. Midlife women are supposed to be those with wisdom. Your self-preservation will not let you forget that you need to heal your old wounds such as past trauma and abuse.
Insomnia has been associated with menopause, but there are many possible causes, including:
- major illness
- chronic pain
- having too many hot flashes
- heartburn or gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD)
Emotional conditions associated with insomnia include:
- falling in love
- falling out of love
- too much worry
- too much stress
- unfulfilling relationships
- spiritual life or lack of it
Other insomnia causes include:
- side-effect of medications
- drug interactions
- drug abuse
- alcohol abuse
- drug withdrawal
- nicotine withdrawal
- caffeine poisoning
- change in environment
- environmental noise, such as a partner snoring
- exposure to extreme temperature changes
If you're experiencing persistent insomnia, consider that it may be caused by one of the conditions listed above, or it could be a sign of an imbalance in your life. Take a good look at your life to try to find the answer, and ask for help. Your subconscious probably knows what is keeping you awake at night, and an intuitive health care provider, counselor, psychiatrist, or other healer can help bring it to the surface.
Your body will tell you when something is not right. Listen to it as you would a friend and become more self-aware of the underlying cause of your symptoms before reaching for medication. Listening to your intuition can be a great self-protection tool. It can be the lifeline to what's affecting your body and your good health.