There is fair growth in the number of open conversations happening around menstruation in the younger mass of the population. My personal growth from hesitating over the word ‘period’ to open discussions and bonding over our menarche experiences in the hostel rooms have marked my understanding of it.
While this happens, there is still a misty fog around the topic of menopause, which affects women physically, emotionally and psychologically when they really knock at their door.
At the age of 47, my mother started reporting body aches, increased irritability, hot flashes, and insomniac nights. Not having a fair amount of knowledge about it herself, my mother started growing more anxious about her bodily changes. For most of the time, she thought having an irregular period is the only symptom of menopause, and it doesn’t happen before the early fifties, maybe because most of our colleagues didn’t have it.
Menopause is the time that marks the end of the menstrual cycle. During this period, the women’s body transitions from the reproductive to the non-reproductive stage. It usually begins between the age of 45-55 years, but the age of menopause differs from woman to woman and can develop before or after this age limit too.
A few common symptoms associated with menopause are hot flashes, fatigue, body ache, irritability, mood swings, disturbed sleeping pattern, inability to concentrate, anxiety and vaginal dryness. While menopause is different for every woman, these symptoms can start to develop a few years before and last until a few years after the menopausal of a woman.
Menopause that happens before the age of 40 is known as premature menopause. In early menopause (premature ovarian failure), ovaries stop producing normal amounts of the hormone oestrogen and release an egg regularly. A survey conducted by the Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC) said that 4% of Indian women experience signs of menopause between 29 to 34 years of age.
Smoking, consumption of unhealthy diet and having other diseases are considered to be the causes of premature menopause. However, the symptoms of it remain the same as that of normal menopause.
“Medically, it is the end of the reproductive period in a woman’s life. Emotionally, it is another phase that leaves women disillusioned, and its effects are often life-altering”, said the writer of an article who reached her menopausal at the age of 30. She described the psychological and emotional impact early menopause left in her life.
In one of its reports, the BBC interviewed Annabelle, diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, just at the age of 15. It reports that only 1 out of 10,000 women under the age of 20 are diagnosed with early menopause. “I felt very alone. You have no one to talk to, no one has it, especially at my age”, Annabella. She described her experience of hot flashes and anxiety, which affected her during menopause. She openly spoke about her insecurities and the constant fear of being misunderstood by others. Despite this unfortunate event, she is still hopeful for her future.
Due course of time, with the advancement in technology, environmental changes and globalisation at its peak, our food, cultural and work habits have changed. Contamination and adulteration in everything have made our body its pothole. Smoking, inhaling pollution and stressing over everything has contributed to putting us at risk of early menopause.
“A woman’s body is going through so many changes today because of the atmosphere and lifestyle requirements, which is why we have been seeing cases of premature ovary failure in adults,” says Dr Shobha Gupta (Medical Director and IVF Specialist at Mother’s Lap IVF Centre) in an interview with The Hindu
Several home remedies and changes in lifestyle have been seen as effective in reducing the chances of early menopause. Exercising, having a healthy and fresh diet, practising relaxation techniques, managing sleep cycles, communicating and keeping calm have proven out to be helping in doing wonders to our lives.
Menopause differs from woman to woman and can affect our physical, emotional, and psychological life. Due to lack of awareness or misinterpreting the symptoms, many women undergo severe anxiety and depression. We can start up conversations about it to reduce this, be their emotional support, and create a comfortable space for the menstruators to talk.