Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Understanding MENOPAUSE

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By Anne-Funmi Fatusin

Night Sweats! Hot Flushes! Headaches! Tiredness! Mood Swings! Insomnia! Palpitations! Disorientation! Loss of libido! Excuses, such as ‘not tonight, darling’, ‘not in the mood’, etc. All these should not be attributed to the ‘village witch’ or ‘return to sender’ prayers. It is part of women’s issues!

If you have passed the ‘Golden Gate’, that is, over 50 years of age, expect Menopausal Symptoms!

However, it is assumed that menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. This is when a woman’s oestrogen levels drop. Although, some women experience menopause at a younger age – 30s, which may be attributed to other health conditions.

Recently, a male friend requested I write an article on menopause. I asked why, and his response baffled me. Even though his wife is a medical doctor, she was battling with the multiple symptoms of menopause.

He lamented that his wife suddenly became agitated and in her birthday suit, every evening, when other family members were fully kitted in warm clothing, due to the cold weather.

However, the next minute, he would find her drinking a hot cup of cocoa. My friend continued – ‘if not for my faith, I would prefer to have girlfriends all over the place, to make up for being denied my conjugal rights!’

I did not know whether to laugh or sympathise with him, but given our two-hour telephone discussion, I felt this was a serious matter in his marriage.

Another friend, a female this time, shared her experience on the same subject. She informed me that every night, her nightgown was always soaked in sweat.

She said her husband always stared in belief, since the air conditioning unit was intermittently switched on at night.

Instead of the woman to share her experience and educate her husband on the symptoms of menopause, I was flabbergasted when she disclosed that she never said anything to him, other than, ‘don’t worry’.

Likewise, another friend, who shared his own experience of his wife simultaneously fanning herself and drinking hot coffee. He enquired from his wife if it was menopause and the wife asked him how he knew! I am amazed at the reactions of these couples.

Who else should a wife/husband turn to for support, if not her/his partner?

These stories were the impetus for Renewing African Mindset (RAM), to organise discussions on the subject, to demystify the taboo surrounding it. There is a need to eradicate the ‘African mindset’ where Africans hardly talk openly about issues affecting their well-being.

Compounded with the ‘culture of silence’ or ignorance, they tend to suffer in silence, which ultimately could lead to severe health issues, such as depression.

Thus, high time to create more awareness on menopause. It is neither a disease nor a disorder. It is just part of womanhood – a phase in a woman’s life. Several women have shared their stories on the RAM platform, and it gave the men who attended the discussions, an opportunity to understand the condition.

WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?

Prior to the time a woman experiences full menopause, the body begins to change. The woman becomes less fertile and hormone levels fluctuate. This stage is known as Perimenopause.

Menopause is the end of a woman’s menstruation. It causes a woman’s monthly periods to stop, which means, technically, she will no longer be able to have children.‘ Technically’ because there have been some cases, where a woman’s period suddenly stops and a few months or years later, it returns, and she falls pregnant.

A high percentage of women do not see their period for a year, after which it suddenly starts again for several months, before it finally ceases.

The cause is usually something minor, such as inflammation of the womb lining, but cancer is always a possibility that must be ruled out. It is therefore advisable to go for a medical check-up, if a woman experiences this.

Menopause is sometimes referred to as the “change of life”. Some scholars interpret this as the ‘midlife crisis’ period, where the woman has varying moods – anxiety, depression, tiredness, etc.

During the menopausal period, the couple (male and female) must be very understanding of each other, because anything devoid of this will negatively impact the relationship. Being a medical professional does not mean you will know exactly how you will cope with menopause. Two of the women who shared their stories are medical doctors.

A man must be able to manage his partner’s moods. At times, a woman’s actions may seem aggressive and later loving (or vice versa).

She is not a lunatic, but responding to the effects of her hormonal changes. A man should be very understanding. He should learn to talk lovingly to his woman and even give her a good massage to get her in the mood for the eventful.

In the same vein, the woman must also empathise with her partner, because he cannot know the severity of the menopause.

Therefore, she must be very cautious that her denial of her partner does not lead him into the arms of another woman, who is ready to fulfil all his needs, even if the third party is experiencing the same menopausal symptoms.

Mutual understanding, trust and effective communication between both parties are very paramount. A couple should be free to discuss what they like and dislike in each other; how to make their relationship better and demonstrate their love for each other, such as buying appreciative gifts, going on exotic holidays, etc.

Appreciative gifts could convey the message of one’s desire, which hopefully, the partner will understand and equally reciprocate.

The fact is that most couples take each other for granted and at times, mismanage expectations, without trying to find out the reason for a ‘midlife crisis’ or how best to circumvent it or try to seek mutually rewarding activities.

Instead, one party decides to ignore the other and before long, the home is like a war zone, or at best, the couple becomes co-tenants, who exchange occasional greetings.

The man should try to educate himself on the subject and realise every woman reacts differently to impact of the menopause.

The same applies to the woman, who should endeavour to have an open discussion with fellow women, who have been or still going through menopause.

A couple should be able to approach their family doctor and have a discussion on the impact of menopause on their relationship.

To reduce the symptoms of menopause, there are many treatments available. Choice of treatment varies according to each person. A change of lifestyle is required – that is – to know the types of food to eat to avoid triggers and regular exercises to do.

Some people take HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), which comes in various forms – pills, patches, gels, or injections.

Always advisable to seek a medical professional, who is aware of a woman’s medical history, to know the right treatment to prescribe.

Men can also share their thoughts with their friends on what to do to release stress or feeling of rejection by their spouse.

The tragedy will be for a man to compare notes with his friends on the number of times he must fulfil his sexual desire with his partner.

There is no hard and fast rule on this. It will be unreasonable to think that because a partner has lost her libido, it is an excuse to seek extra-marital affairs. Same applies to men, who suffer from Erectile Dysfunction/Andropause (a separate topic).

Everyone is different. It has been noted that a few percentage of women experience a ‘new lease of life’ if their partners are more understanding and engage in mutually pleasurable sexual activity. As the saying goes – ‘a problem half-shared, is a problem half –solved.’

C.U.T.E. – Communication, Understanding, Trust and Enjoyment – should be the watchword of any lasting relationship, irrespective of the duration of the menopause.

SYMPTOMS (top 40 Perimenopausal)
1. Hot flashes
2. Cold flashes
3. Night sweats


4. Clammy feeling
5. Heart palpitations
6. Irritability
7. Mood swings
8. Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
9. Irregular periods
10. Low sex drive (low libido)
11. Dry vagina
12. Fatigue
13. Anxiety
14. Depression
15. Lack of focus
16. Poor concentration
17. Faculty of memory
18. Incontinence
19. Itching, crawly skin (formication)
20. Achy joints, muscles
21. Tense muscles
22. Sore breasts
23. Headaches


24. Digestive issues
25. Bloating
26. Allergies worsen
27. Weight gain
28. Hair loss/thining
29. More facial hair
30. Dizziness
31. Vertigo
32. Changed body odour
33. Electric shock feelings
34. Tingling extremities
35. Bleeding gums
36. Burning tongue/roof of mouth
37. Chronic bad breath
38. Osteoporosis (weak bones)
39. Weakened fingernails
40. Ringing ears (tinnitus)

 

Fatusin, who is a freelance writer, motivational speaker and social justice influencer, based in the United Kingdom, is also the founder/convener of Renewing African Mindset (R.AM.) – a discussion platform for African social issues

 

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