The 50 something man has many family issues facing him. One we all hear about and many dread is that “time-of-life” your significant other will inevitably go through. Helping her through this time of her life as well as being able to better cope yourself begins with having a better understanding of menopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when a her menstrual periods stop. Menopause happens because the ovaries stop producing the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Once a woman has gone through menopause, she can’t get pregnant anymore. Some people call the years leading up to a woman’s last period menopause, but that time actually is the menopausal transition, or perimenopause (PER-ee-MEN-oh-pawz).
During perimenopause a woman’s periods can stop for a while and then start again. Therefore, the only way to know if she has gone through menopause is if she has not had her period for one year. (And it’s not menopause if her periods stop for some other reason, like being sick.) The average age of menopause is 51, but for some women it happens as early as 40 or as late as 55.
After a woman goes through menopause, she is considered in the post-menopausal stage of her life. Her female hormones won’t go up and down the way they used to with her periods. They will stay at very low levels.
Some women worry about menopause, and it can cause uncomfortable symptoms. But there are many ways to treat symptoms and stay active and strong.
Usually, menopause is natural. That means it happens on its own, and medical treatment is not needed unless her symptoms bother her. Sometimes, though, menopause is medically induced, which means it’s caused by an operation or medication. If so, she should work closely with her doctor to feel comfortable and take good care of her health.
What she may be feeling
Menopause affects every woman differently. Some women have no symptoms, but some women have changes in several areas of their lives. It’s not always possible to tell if these changes are related to aging, menopause, or both.
Some changes that might start in the years around menopause include:
- Irregular periods: A woman’s periods can come more often or less, last more days or fewer, and be lighter or heavier.
- Hot flashes: A sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all over her body. Her face and neck may become red. Red blotches may appear on her chest, back, and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow.
- Trouble sleeping: She may have night sweats, which are hot flashes that make her perspire while you sleep. She may also feel extra tired during the day.
- Vaginal and urinary problems: These problems may start or increase in the time around menopause.
- Mood changes: Many women could have mood swings, feel crabby, or have crying spells. Mood changes at this time also could be coming from stress, family changes, or feeling tired. Mood swings are not the same as depression.
- Changing feelings about sex: Some women feel less aroused, while others feel more comfortable with their sexuality after menopause. Some women may be less interested in sex because sex can be more physically uncomfortable.
- Osteoporosis (OS-tee-oh-poh-ROH-sis): This is a condition in which her bones get thin and weak. It can lead to loss of height and broken bones. A change in estrogen levels may trigger this.
- Other changes. She might become forgetful or have trouble focusing. Her waist could become larger, she could lose muscle and gain fat. Her joints and muscles also could feel stiff and achy. Experts do not know if some of these changes are a result of the lower estrogen levels of menopause or are a result of growing older.
What you can do to help
- Know what to expect: You are off to a good start by reading this article. If you need to know more try: The North American Menopause Society
- Make her feel beautiful: Your partner may not feel that good about herself and about how she looks. Help her improve her self-image by telling her how great she looks. Surprise her with a romantic date night.
- Be patient about sex: Some women feel less aroused and less interested in sex. Let her know if you want to have sex, but don’t be pushy. Be patient; don’t take her disinterest personally.
- Let her know how you feel: It’s important to be supportive, but there may be only so much you can take. Share how her actions affect you.
- Look for signs when help is needed: If your wife seems unusually withdrawn and very miserable, ask her to see a doctor.
- Humor can help: They say humor is the best medicine. Use the healing power of humor to help navigate through menopause. For a lighthearted look at menopause go to: http://www.perriemenopudge.com/
- Above all remember, this too shall pass