There are sufficient awareness campaigns that impart knowledge about periods. It includes lessons on menarche, menstrual hygiene management, sanitary products and their environmental aspect, social stigma and taboo associated with menstruation, etc. However, Menopause is ignored. The only information one knows about it is that Menopause is the time that marks the end of the menstrual cycle.
Just as menarche, Menopause has many dimensions. Its onset varies for different women. The hormonal changes affect the physical and mental health of women. Lack of knowledge and awareness makes it more difficult for menstruators in India.
Menopause is the definite ceasing of ovarian function. Externally, it translates into the disappearance of the woman’s periods. Periods do not disappear overnight. It is a process that takes around 4–6 years, varying for each menstruator. In India, the average age of Menopause is 47 years.
The body starts producing less than usual quantities of hormones named estrogens and progesterone. This gradual hormonal imbalance leads to irregular periods. A menstruator will see their periods quarterly or once in 2 months. Cessation of periods for 12 consecutive months marks Menopause.
Estrogen is a good hormone. It helps menstruators fight various illnesses like cervix cancer, blood cancer and acts as a cardioprotective agent. Hence, Menopause brings a lot of changes in a menstruator’s body.
The symptoms of Menopause are seen much before the process starts. It starts at an average of 40–45 years. Some of the most common symptoms are:
The symptoms vary from person to person. Menopause is a normal biological process. However, one must consult a doctor to avoid any complications. It can be severe if it affects one’s overall productivity.
On discussing Menopause with my friends and family, I understood that people are unaware and ignorant about menstruators’ various health conditions. As a result, most families overburden women with household chores. The family members put no efforts to acknowledge her mood swings and health conditions during the phase.
There is significantly less awareness about Menopause and the changes in the body in those ages. One may feel very tired. One may feel like laughing and crying simultaneously. Menstruator themselves may not be able to acknowledge the changes.
Support from the family helps a menstruator to sail through this phase smoothly. My friend Shreya said, “Menopause is a crucial time. One needs their families support. My father communicated with my brother and me to support my mother. We were specially told about mood swings mummy may undergo.”
Menstruators may feel depressed and restless. They are unable to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. Shreya further said, “At times, my mother would overreact or get hyper. Later she would get confused and irritated with her own behaviour and reaction. This is part of the menopause phase.”
My grandmother troubled sleeping properly in her menopause ages. Lack of enough sleep causes irritability. Most menstruators face a mid-life crisis. They feel like exploring new things but are not appreciated. For a homemaker, there is no escape. This worsens their mental health.
Simona (name changed) was planning to conceive at the age of 43. She started experiencing night sweat. On consulting a doctor, she found that this was her pre-menopause period. This came like a thunderclap.
“I was depressed. I had no clue that Menopause can hit at an age as young as 43. I ardently wanted to experience motherhood. The constant threat of Menopause made me super anxious. I am blessed with a baby girl,” Simona said.
Things were complicated for her as she went through post-partum and Menopause together. Simona said, “I do not know what it is with the age of Menopause. No one got it as early as me in my family. I found it extremely difficult to manage both post-partum and Menopause. It made me extremely drained and tired.”
Menstruators themselves ignore the changes in their body. My Aunt got heavy and painful periods during her Menopause. She would cry but not consult a doctor. She told my mother, “Aisi cheezo ke liye doctor ke pass kya jana bhabhi. Maine soocha theek ho jayega (Why do you have to consult a doctor for such things. I thought it would be fine).”
They wait for themselves to be bedridden to consult a doctor. My Aunt’s periods continued to be painful for the next 7–8 months. She finally consulted a doctor. She was operated on.
Due to the changing lifestyle, most menstruators suffer from an illness like arthritis, anaemia, blood pressure or diabetes. Menopause accelerates the chances of complications. There is a dire need to talk about Menopause openly. The burden of house chores, expected obligation to look after the family and ignoring their health makes them suffer more during Menopause.
Menstruators need a lot of attention and care during Menopause. Let us be a pillar of strength for them. Let us communicate in our family to normalize their mood swings.
The author is a part of the current batch of the #PeriodParGyan Writer’s Training Program