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What is menopause?

The Ministry of Health defines: “Menopause corresponds to the last menstrual cycle, only recognized after 12 months of its occurrence. When talking about the symptoms of menopause, some people may see it as a health problem. But the truth is that menopause is not a disease and it doesn't need to be faced with suffering either."

Many people confuse the terms “menopause” and “climacteric” because both refer to the same phase, but they happen at different times. “The climacteric is the set of symptoms that appear before and after menopause, caused mainly by hormonal variations typical of this period, and which can cause a series of fluctuations in the menstrual cycle. In this transition phase, it is common for mestrual periods to be more spaced. Therefore, menopause is only “diagnosed” after a woman has gone at least 12 months without menstruating.

The age of menopause to arrive is around the 50s, but the climacteric usually comes earlier. The climacteric begins around 41 years of age, extends until approximately 65 years of age and is marked by minor physical and psychological changes. Within this large margin of time, menopause occurs.

Menopause and symptoms

How does menopause work?

Every woman produces the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries. However, with the aging of these, the production of sex hormones comes to an end and the woman undergoes changes in menstruation. This phase in which there is ovarian insufficiency and irregular menstruation is the period called climacteric, which I explain above. The phase is characterized by often uncomfortable symptoms and significant changes in the woman's body and mind.

  • Hot flashes in the neck, trunk and face regions;

  • Sweating;

  • Muscle fatigue.

  • Dizziness;

  • Palpitations;

  • Irregularities in the length of menstrual cycles and the amount of blood flow;

  • Difficulty emptying the bladder;

  • Pain to urinate;

  • Urinary incontinence;

  • Urinary and gynecological infections;

  • Vaginal dryness;

  • Pain on penetration;

  • Decreased libido;

  • Irritability;

  • Emotional lability;

  • Uncontrolled crying;

  • Depression;

  • Anxiety disorders;

  • Melancholy;

  • Memory loss;

  • Insomnia;

  • Loss of vigor in hair and nails, which become thinner and brittle;

  • Changes in the distribution of fat in the body;

  • Loss of bone mass, characteristic of osteoporosis and osteopenia;

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The psychological impact of menopause

Menopause is a period of many changes and, if the woman does not have the necessary follow-up and support, she may be susceptible to the development of psychological diseases.

Emotional lability, that is, the imbalance of emotions, is quite common, because hormone production begins to decrease already in the climacteric. In this phase of hormonal changes known as perimenopause, the woman is extremely sensitive, with large fluctuations in mood, melancholy, insomnia and even memory lapses.

In addition to these impacts, hormonal changes also cause dyspareunia, that is, pain in sexual intercourse due to the decrease in estrogen, responsible for the lubrication of the vagina. Physical discomfort is also linked to the stress, frustration and anxiety that women feel for not being able to feel pleasure with their partner, which can lead to marital problems. It is very important that the partner of this woman who is going through the peri-menopause phase helps her and encourages her to seek medical and psychological advice, to avoid any problem in the life of the couple.

Menopause brings emotional lability and sensitivity. Do you know why these factors can be a path to psychological disorders such as depression?

In psychology, when we study human development, we cannot deny that body and mind are integrated: any change in the body interferes with the psyche, and any emotional change interferes with the body. What we realize in menopause is that there are a series of emotional changes that will have psychological changes. In the case of depression, we cannot deny a person's life history, whether that person already has a predisposition to depression or has had lifelong depression, or severe mood instability. All of this intensifies in menopause.

We can also enter into a social issue that is the perception of women in relation to aging. In cultures like ours, which value youth and eternal beauty, the stop in the reproductive cycle can represent a certain emptiness, a loss of meaning, a loss of female function and role in society, and this can culminate in depression.

Sometimes women feel a certain depersonalization, they feel lost.

What happens with some women's health care is medication for any symptom and emotional lability, and the lack of listening.

There is a lack of listening, information, interaction with other women who are going through the same phase and talking openly about it, from lack of libido, to the empty nest syndrome, which usually happens during this period.

The woman goes to the gynecologist or endocrinologist to whom they give medication to suppress the symptoms, instead of focusing on what would be an opportunity to re-signify the woman's femininity, to get in touch with this life-review phase. If you only medicate this phase and don't give space for speech, you lose the opportunity to elaborate, go through difficulties and position yourself in the face of maturity.

Therapy is essential in this period. Psychotherapy is indicated at any stage of life. Women who are working on their maturation, aging and marital issues from the young-adult stage, they will reach menopause with greater opportunities to resignify themselves. The important thing is not necessarily a psychotherapy. For people who like and identify with it, great! It is essential that people do something therapeutic, that generates self-knowledge, something in which they can talk about it and look at this phase more naturally. Women can benefit from therapy, but also from activities they identify with.

There is a constant search for pleasure at any cost and there is no space to talk about suffering, so no one talk about insomnia, weight gain, memory loss that some women have in this period. These issues are natural with aging.

Talking about aging is frightening and, therefore, many women suffer the psychological impact of menopause, as it is the biological sign that they have entered a new phase of life, a more mature one and far from their early thirties. That is why the fight against this pattern that it is forbidden to grow old is constant from a young age, so self-knowledge and the awareness that aging is normal makes any woman ready to face the physical and mental challenges of menopause.

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