Decoding Menopause: From Stormy Weather to Sunny Skies

July 29, 2013

When we think of the word “menopause” many of us imagine a middle-aged woman

When we think of the word “menopause” many of us imagine a middle-aged woman who experiences regular, and violent, mood swings, which causes the people around her to become fed up. But very few of us understand what causes these shifts in a woman’s mood and how best to manage it, and if it might even be preventable so it doesn’t occur when we finally enter menopause.

Set aside your worries and take a look at the information provided by Dr. Pansak Sugkraroek, an obstetrician who specializes in reproductive endocrinology at Bumrungrad International Hospital. You’ll realize that menopause really isn’t the scary monster you think it is.

Menopause: The Precipice of Change

“Menopause basically refers to the time when a woman is no longer menstruating. This is caused by cessation of the function of the ovaries, which no longer produce eggs or the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menopause is referred to as the “age of change,” as women transition out of the reproductive phase of their lives. Menopause brings with it many changes. The average age that menopause begins in Thai women is between 45 and 50, with many symptoms preceding it. Sometimes a woman can enter menopause before 40 years of age; this is called premature menopause.

Symptoms of Menopause

One of the most common symptoms of menopause, and the one that diminishes the quality of life of many women, is hot flashes. Other common symptoms include feeling easily frustrated, body aches, stress, insomnia, night sweats, urinary incontinence, painful sexual intercourse caused by vaginal dryness, and no sex drive.  These symptoms are caused by the lack of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. They affect a woman physically as well as emotionally, causing a loss of confidence. Eventually this can affect the functions of various organs in the body, which in turn can impact a woman’s daily life.

A Good Start for a Happy Ending

The age of change brings many physical changes to a woman’s body and if not  cared for properly, many problems may occur that can prevent a normal and happy life once a woman reaches 60. That is why it is important to start improving quality of life when menopause begins. This is especially true for women today whose lifestyles make them particularly prone to illness. Factors that affect health include improper food intake, lack of exercise, and avoiding exposure to sunlight, which leads to Vitamin D deficiency. Furthermore, many women smoke and drink alcohol regularly, which leads to osteoporosis and brain deterioration.

However none of these symptoms or conditions is life-threatening, especially if a woman sees a specialist or visits a menopause clinic as soon as symptoms occur. This increases the chances of recovery or improvement. It isn’t about treatment, but about suggesting behavioral changes and lifestyle modifications, or “life coaching,” according to the easy principles established by the Department of Health, the Ministry of Public Health. These include: good food, good attitude,  proper exercise, reproductive health and environmental health.

These principles state that one should choose nutritious foods that are high in calcium and reduce carbohydrates and sugars. Avoid fatty food, increase fiber in diet, and drink plenty of water. Also get plenty of rest and go to bed before midnight. Control emotions and develop a positive attitude. Be cheerful. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week. Undergo annual physical check-ups and screening for cervical and breast cancers. Stay where the environment is clean and healthy.

Correcting Imbalance with Hormones

As a woman gets older her metabolism naturally deteriorates. At the same time, the foods that we eat nowadays do not contain enough nutrients, impacting the organs of the body and causing hormonal deficiencies. Eventually this leads to complete hormone depletion in women. Thus these hormones must be replaced with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT.

Before receiving replacement hormones such as bioidentical hormones, which have the same structures as the sex hormones of a human being, a thorough examination should be carried out of the woman in menopause. She should be checked for hormone-related tumors, such as uterine and ovarian growths. She should also not have hormone-related cancers, such as endometrial cancer, some types of ovarian cancers, and breast cancer. If she is not at risk for any of these conditions she may safely begin HRT.

There are many advantages to HRT in menopausal women, including reduction of hot flashes, depression, memory loss, problems of the urinary and reproductive systems, as well as increasing bone mass and preventing ischemic heart disease, if HRT is begun early, before symptoms occur. To ensure safety and effectiveness, HRT should be carefully observed and results monitored closely.

Love: The Key to Happiness

If you ask me how you can be happy during menopause, my answer is that you need to live your life with love as prescribed by the four principles of Buddhism. When you love you must have compassion and want happiness for the one you love. Be kind and keep the one you love from suffering. Furthermore, find pleasure in the happiness of those you love, and finally, learn to detach. All of this to say that if you give good things to someone you love and they are not ready to accept them, don’t get angry, don’t sulk, and don’t feel insecure. It is important that the care of a woman during menopause is carried out with her whole being in mind.

Menopause: A Colorful Season

Even though menopause brings with it many changes, but in my opinion, a woman going through menopause is just like autumn, when the leaves are most colorful. Overseas this season is considered the most beautiful and many tourists travel to observe this phenomena. So I would like menopausal women, and society, to change their thinking. This is a wonderful time in a woman’s life, when her children are grown and stable, finally allowing her time to herself. This is a time to care for her health, and a perfect time to adjust her perspective and the way she lives her life. Add bright colors to your life and your life will definitely shine more, and walk into the next stage of your life with joy.

Menopause is not an illness. It is a colorful season of life and shouldn’t cause anxiety and be an obstacle in living life. If carefully managed both physically and emotionally, and an understanding is reached between two people, a woman going through menopause can continue a high quality of life and be happy. 

Checklist of Symptoms of Menopause

Are you experiencing any of these?
  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes through your body, night sweats or chills
  • Body aches, including the muscles, joints, and bones
  • Urination problems, such as incontinence
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Normally healthy skin is dry, rough and more wrinkled

More Info: Menopause checkup

By Dr. Pansak Sugkraroek OB/GYN (Women), Menopause Women's Center Bumrungrad International hospital, Bangkok, Thailand
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