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Here’s Your Easy And Informative Guide To Menopause

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Written by Gayatri Aich

Menopause can be defined as the end of a menstruator’s menstrual cycles. Menopause causes certain changes in your body that you may go through before and/or after your period stops entirely. Menopause is natural and biological and is caused when the ovaries do not ovulate (release an egg) each month anymore, thus putting an end to your menstrual cycles. Menopause can occur as a result of surgeries as in the cases of hysterectomy, or chemotherapy, or any serious damage to the ovaries. Menopause usually occurs at/around the age of forty, but can also happen earlier than that, in which case it is known as premature menopause.

An old woman walking

What Are The First Signs Of Menopause?

Some of the most common symptoms found in menstruators close to their menopause include hot flashes, sweating and/or blushing along with sudden warmth spread across the upper body. The flashes may range from mild to severe, and differ from one person to another. Other signs of nearing menopause include missed or uneven periods, sore breasts, dryness in the vagina, urge to pee more often than usual, issues in sleeping, emotional changes, and dry skin, mouth, and/or eyes.

What Are The Later Symptoms Of Menopause?

The symptoms that come with menopause, later on, include fatigue, crankiness, a racing heart, frequent headaches, pain in muscles and joints, weight gain, changes in libido/sex drive, and hair loss. 

Stages Of Menopause

The natural occurrence of menopause which has not been affected by any existing medical conditions or surgeries comes in three stages:

  1. Perimenopause: It is a phase that generally starts several years prior to menopause, at which point the ovaries begin to slowly make lesser estrogen. This phase lasts until menopause, the point at which the ovaries do not release eggs any longer. During the last 1-2 years of perimenopause, the estrogen levels tend to fall faster. This is also the time when menstruators sometimes begin experiencing the first signs of menopause. 
  2. Menopause: It is the phase when a menstruator has not had a period in a year. At this phase, the ovaries no longer release eggs. 
  3. Postmenopause: It is the phase that includes the years following menopause. During this phase, menopausal symptoms like hot flashes tend to come to an end. 

How Long Do The Symptoms Last?

The symptoms of menopause affect different menstruators differently. In most cases, the symptoms of perimenopause last about 4 years. 

What Causes Premature Menopause? 

There are various factors that may cause premature menopause, including immune system disorders, genes, or certain medical procedures. The following are some of the causes:

  • Premature ovarian failure: It is a medical condition where the ovaries stop releasing eggs prematurely due to reasons unknown. The estrogen and progesterone levels in such cases change. This is a condition that occurs in menstruators less than 40 years of age. However, premature ovarian failure is not always permanent. 
  • Induced menopause: It is a condition caused when the doctor surgically removes the ovaries for medical reasons like endometriosis or uterine cancer. It can also be caused due to the damage caused by chemotherapy or radiation.

Diagnosis Of Menopause 

When you suspect due to your symptoms that you are nearing your menopause, visit your doctor for further consultation and diagnosis. Keeping track of the dates of your periods when you notice them becoming uneven would help your doctor understand better. There is a blood test that your doctor might suggest to test the levels of:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH: It tends to go up when you are closer to your menopause 
  • Estradiol: It explains how much estrogen is being produced by your ovaries
  • Thyroid hormones: It indicates issues with the thyroid gland which often affects the menstrual cycle, thus making it seem like menopause 
  • Anti Mullerian Hormone or AMH: It is a hormone produced in the body’s reproductive tissues, and indicates the details of the reserve of eggs in the ovaries

How To Deal With Menopausal Changes?

Here is a list of tips for you to deal with the changes caused before, during or after menopause:

  • Drink cold water, sleep/sit near a fan and/or dress in multiple layers if you are having hot flashes
  • Use a vaginal lubricant or moisturiser to deal with vaginal dryness
  • Exercise on a regular basis to get better sleep
  • Practise deep breathing, yoga, and go for massages to feel relaxed 
  • Consume healthy foods

Menopause comes with sexual changes that can be different to manage. Menopause may make it difficult for you to reach orgasm or enjoy sex as much as you did before. However, engaging in regular sexual activity after your menopause would promote blood flow and keep your vagina healthy. While menopause clearly means that you cannot get pregnant anymore, it does not mean that you cannot get a sexually transmitted disease. Therefore, continue having protected sex to remain healthy and happy!

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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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