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How Does One Know They’re Experiencing Menopause? Here Are Some Signs

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Menopause is inevitable. Every menstruator has to go through menopause at one point or the other. However, while everyone knows about the concept, many don’t know anything more than that. We’re aware that it signals the end of one’s menstrual cycles and has its onset around 40-50 years of age. But that’s about it.

There are several signs of menopause you shouldn’t ignore because menopause comes with its own set of challenges. It can bring several painful symptoms such as vasomotor symptoms, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, insomnia, fatigue and joint pain. Pre-empting is the first step towards managing menopause better. Here are the signs of menopause you shouldn’t be ignoring:

Persistent Bloating

Bloating is one of the most common symptoms that people who menstruate go through. In most cases, this symptom is ignored as bloating, as something women are used to dealing with during their menstrual cycles. However, bloating during menopause is different. Bloating may occur during the perimenopause or menopause period due to the change of hormones your body is going through.

One check to identify bloating as a sign of menopause is by keeping a track of how long you’re feeling bloated. For example, if you’re feeling bloated throughout the day, during your sleep, and even after you wake up, it is important to get it checked. In objective terms, anything over two weeks can be a symptom of menopause.      

Headaches

woman with her hands in her face, stressed, anxious, worried
While menopause is inevitable, it is important to be conscious of the symptoms so as to ensure that it can be managed in the best way possible.

One of the lesser-known symptoms of menopause is headaches. Headaches are really easy to miss, and many people who experience them rarely attribute them to menopause at the first go. Another reason why headaches aren’t associated with menopause is because of the belief that women are more prone to headaches than men.

However, menopausal headaches have been known to be caused by a sudden drop or rise in estrogen levels, which is common during menopause. This change in hormones can turn into a spasm causing tension at the back of the neck and a subsequent headache. Therefore, if you’re facing a never-ending headache, and have ruled out the common factors such as stress or dehydration, it is important to get this checked out with a doctor to make sure it’s not linked to menopause.

Hot Flashes

This is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. However, due to its fleeting nature, the sensation isn’t linked with menopause by most. Hot flashes refer to a warm flush that starts in your chest or faces and makes its way downwards into the body. Their frequency can vary from an hourly sensation to one as infrequent as once every 3-4 days.

Hot flashes are said to occur when the change in hormone levels makes the body’s hypothalamus more sensitive to changes in body temperature. The hypothalamus is like the body’s own little thermostat. When it starts to think the body is too warm, it sets off a chain of events to cool the body down. This chain of events is referred to as a hot flash. While hot flashes are common, they’re also a symptom of menopause. If you find hot flashes interfering with your sleep or daily activities, it is time to see a doctor. 

Longer Menstrual Cycles

Another symptom of menopause can be an extended menstrual cycle. This may be accompanied by a decrease in the time between consecutive menstrual cycles or a heavier-than-normal flow. Many women discount these minute changes, putting them down as a one-off incident. However, if you find your menstrual cycle lasting more than seven days, or you get your next period in less than 24-28 days, it is best to get it checked by a doctor.

vagina care
Many women, when they get vaginal infections, don’t consider menopause to be a factor. However, the reason behind an increased frequency of vaginal infections faced by women can also be menopause.

Change In Cholesterol Levels

No one actually makes the association between cholesterol levels and menopause, but tracking it can actually help you in identifying in advance when menopause hits you. The perimenopause period may result in an undesirable change in cholesterol level, particularly the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or the ‘bad’ cholesterol, as it is better known. The decline in estrogen levels during this period also reduces the good cholesterol in the body or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), thus increasing the risk of heart disease.

Increased Frequency Of Vaginal Infection

Many women, when they get vaginal infections, don’t consider menopause to be a factor. However, in reality, the reason behind an increased frequency of vaginal infections faced by women can also be menopause. The diminishing estrogen levels result in a decrease in lubrication levels, thus increasing the chance of infection. A decrease in estrogen secretion has been proven to increase the chances of encouraging disease-causing bacteria as well.

While menopause is inevitable, it is important to be conscious of the symptoms so as to ensure that it can be managed in the best way possible. Understanding the symptoms of menopause and how it works can also help in easing the effect it has on one’s life. By being aware of the changes, you can accommodate changes to your lifestyle with the help of your doctor or gynaecologist.

Additionally, in case of severe circumstances, several treatments such as menopausal hormone therapy or hormone replacement therapy can also be looked at. However, before all of that, the first step is to listen to your body and not ignore any signs of menopause.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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