The menopause – a rite of passage for women

Definition

The menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive life and occurs around the age of 50 (between 45 and 55 years of age). It is a natural process that all women must undergo. It is therefore not a disease.

There are approximately 10 million menopausal women in France. Their bodies produce fewer and fewer sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) causing ovulation and periods to stop. Before reaching the menopause, women first experience the 'premenopause', a fertile period after puberty followed by the 'perimenopause', a period that in most cases lasts between two and seven years, during which female hormone levels gradually fall.

Menopause

Source (in French): http://www.sante-sur-le-net.com/

Symptoms

The lack of hormones can trigger several symptoms that vary depending on the woman. Some women experience no symptoms apart from their periods stopping. Others suffer from hot flushes, mood swings or depression, sleep problems or insomnia, heavy night sweating, urinary disorders or infections, vaginal dryness often associated with reduced sex drive, weight gain, dry skin or dry hair.  Menopausal women are also at greater risk of heart attacks and osteoporosis. Approximately 40% of women aged over 50 suffer from osteoporosis.

Menopause

Source: http://www.askdoctork.com/

Prevention

Since the menopause is a natural process, it cannot be prevented. However, symptoms may be alleviated by taking a number of precautions. For instance, women are advised not to smoke as this can cause the menopause to occur one or two years early. Moreover, physicians recommend limiting coffee and alcohol intake, taking regular physical exercise and eating healthily in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Obesity can also lead to a late menopause.

As a precaution against diseases that can be caused by the menopause, women are advised to undergo regular blood tests and have a mammogram every two years to prevent breast cancer.

Treatment

Although no drug is capable of 'curing' the menopause, various types of treatments can provide relief for menopausal women and ease their symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is available to compensate for the lack of female hormones.  However, HRT cannot be used with patients suffering from certain diseases and some women cannot tolerate the treatment. Moreover, hormone intake may increase the risk of breast cancer, thrombosis and strokes. It can also cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, weight gain and breast tension.

The following treatments are available for women who are unable or unwilling to take hormones:

  • Food supplements
  • Herbal medicine
  • Aromatherapy
  • Homeopathy

These treatments are available in various forms including tablets, patches, gels and nasal sprays. Doctissimo provides a full list of drugs for treating the menopause(in French). Pilbox offers a wide range of daily, weekly and special pill dispensers, pill dispensers for food supplements and pill dispensers for homeopathic treatments, enabling you to stick to your treatment and limit the number of missed doses.

Sources: http://www.topsante.com/, http://sante-medecine.journaldesfemmes.com/, http://www.passeportsante.net/, http://www.doctissimo.fr/