Women spend a third of their lives in menopause: why it’s important to look after our mental health | Health and wellness

Today, October 18, is World Menopause Day. We have world days for everything, some completely exhausting and others just as necessary as this one.

Menopause remains a taboo subject. It is a great unknown for the population, but above all it is for those who live it: women. We reach this vital stage uninformed, without understanding what is happening to our body, mind and state of mind. That’s why days like today are so important to give it the visibility it needs, not only for women, but also for men, health professionals and the media.

Promoted by the International Menopause Society and the World Health Organization, this year’s theme is dedicated to mental health, as one in three women will experience significant psychological changes during perimenopause.

There are several terms and concepts that you need to review and understand in order to have a more global view of what is happening in this vital stage. Let’s see some of them.

Menopause is the stage of the aging process in women that marks the transition from the reproductive to the non-reproductive phase. In general, this does not happen from one day to the next, but there is an evolution of years in which the ovaries reduce the production of hormones and ovules, until the exhaustion of the ovarian reserve occurs, that is, no more eggs are formed and menopause occurs.

The term perimenopause is often used synonymously with climacteric, as it refers to the preceding years in which endocrine, clinical and biological changes begin, up to the first year after menopause. Regardless of whether we are talking about climacteric or perimenopause, within this stage is included another one called transition to menopause and which refers to the last years immediately after menopause and in which a woman experiences important changes in the menstrual cycle.

Menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstruation as a result of this loss of ovarian follicular activity. Natural menopause is confirmed a posteriori after twelve consecutive months without a period, as there is no biological marker to tell us that this was the last period, so we will have to wait for the whole year to pass to confirm the date. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of your period, even if it occurs every few months. After menopause occurs, a woman enters postmenopause.

There are cases where menopause is not natural, but occurs as a result of a surgical procedure in which both ovaries are removed (whether or not the uterus is also removed) or due to the effects of treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. This is what is known as induced menopause and can give the same symptoms as natural menopause.

There are also women who experience premature menopause, where menstruation stops naturally before the age of 40. The reasons are not exactly known, but it is important for these women to know that the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis or cancer increases compared to women who go through menopause at a conventional age, so it is important that they realize and take the necessary measures necessary for self-care after consultation with a health professional.

Menopause plays an important role in women nowadays. In 1900, the average age of menopause was 51, and the average age of death for women was 59. These women spent about 8 years without menstruation before they died. Currently, the average age of menopause remains the same at 51, but the average age of death for women is 83. This means that a woman spends about a third of her life in menopause. It is too serious to ignore.

Many of the symptoms caused by a lack of estrogen can be confused with other pathologies, from depression and anxiety to fibromyalgia, severe migraines or memory problems. That is why it is essential for the health professional to delve into the medical and personal history of the woman, because then other problems arise that the patient does not attach importance to, either due to ignorance, shame or normalization, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, changes in the mood or low libido.

With a saturated public health system and a lack of awareness and information about menopause among many health professionals, we end up with women being misdiagnosed, with inadequate treatment that does not resolve their symptoms, and with huge economic consequences resulting from sick leave. reduced productivity or early retirement.

Specifically, in the case of mental health, the guidelines are clear: there is no evidence that antidepressant treatment improves symptoms related to psychological changes. Therefore, antidepressants should not be the first treatment option in these cases, since hormonal changes are responsible for the symptoms.

Therefore, when psychological symptoms affect quality of life, menopausal hormone therapy should be considered as a first option. On the other hand, it may be useful to seek help from a professional psychologist, in addition to following a diet adapted to the woman’s moment in life, practicing physical exercises, combining strength training with cardiovascular and balance training, learning to manage of stress, improving rest and maintaining and strengthening social ties. A third of our lives is too long to ignore, and we deserve to live it healthily and to the fullest.

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