Menopause itself simply refers to the permanent cessation of menstruation due to the aging of the ovaries. Often called the ‘change of life’ as this stage signals the end of a woman’s ability to have children.
It is important to understand that Menopause is a natural stage of life and is not a disease within itself. Menopause only becomes a disease when its associated symptoms and related health conditions become severe enough to warrant treatment.
Menopause is said to be complete when menstrual periods have ceased for one continuous year. The transition phase before menopause is medically referred to as perimenopause. During this transition time before menopause, the supply of mature eggs in a woman’s ovaries diminishes and ovulation becomes irregular. At the same time the production of estrogen and progesterone decreases. According to Western medicine it is the enormous drop in estrogen levels that cause most of the menopausal symptoms.
About half of all women go through menopause before the age of 51 and most woman finish menopause between the ages of 42-58. Generally a woman tends to experience menopause at about the same age as her mother did.
The leading symptom of perimenopause is hot flashes affecting up to 75% of women.
The following list is the main symptoms reported by women throughout this transition.
- mood changes
- night sweats
- vaginal dryness
- Difficulty concentrating
- decrease in libido
- relaxation of pelvic muscles – frequent urination
- thinning of hair growth on head,
- weight gain especially around the midline
- joint pain.
A significant number of women present with at least three or more of the above symptoms. It is easy to understand why HRT is so appealing as it is very effective for many women to significantly reduce these invasive symptoms.
However, despite its benefit, it does come with both short term and long term side effects and still not all of these are known.
For a more safe and favourable option, eastern medicine (TCM) has been shown to have significant effects in reducing perimenopausal symptoms. With the use of both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine a treatment plan is devised according to the persons presenting signs and symptoms. TCM’s focus is to restore the body back into balance which includes addressing all lifestyle factors which can have a major influence of the severity of symptoms, and restoring equilibrium.