The Change of Life

In the majority of middle-aged women the irregular and scantier menstrual periods and final cessation of menstruation takes place with little or no discomfort or upsets. In others there may be difficulties of varying degree.

To some the very fact that their child-bearing period is over is a source of depression, yet, looked at sensibly,

Nature has made a very sound provision that women do not exhaust their bodies by bearing children in their less vigorous years.

It is an interesting fact that over the last fifty years or so the average age at which menstruation ceases has become later so that many more women have the menopause at about the age of 52.

Although it is normal in the early stages of `the change' to miss periods for one, two, or three months, medical advice should be sought if there is any irregular bleeding or blood-stained discharge between the period dates as this may indicate a uterine disorder which may be serious and need early treatment.

Flushes

The most common complaint is that of hot flushes. Very few women avoid thus although it varies greatly in intensity.

There is usually a sudden feeling of heat (or cold) and some flushing, particularly of the face. It feels much worse to the sufferer than it appears to the onlooker who may not even be aware of it.

In severe cases it is accompanied by excessive sweating-this is more likely to occur when the woman is tired out, or sometimes during the night with consequent disturbance of sleep.

The flushes are caused by glandular changes which temporarily upset the balance of the blood circulation, suffusing the skin capillaries.

Since any glandular disturbance within the body is liable to cause emotional reactions, it is not surprising that many women at this stage have outbursts of excitability, over-activity, exaggeration of small grievances, brooding over imagined slights and feeling misunderstood.

It can be a trying time for husbands and children as well as for the woman herself. Only patience, loving sympathy and an understanding of what is happening can help the situation.

If a woman realises that her emotional menopausal symptoms are getting out of hand she should see her doctor since these symptoms can be greatly relieved by oestrogen preparations taken in small tablet form.

Fears and Insomnia

Fears of insanity or of cancer worry some women during the menopause and, for these dreads, firm re-assurance and sympathy should always be given by the husband and friends, and is always available from the family doctor.

Disturbance of sleep is common and the doctor may prescribe mild sedatives to tide over the difficulty; if tranquillisers are pre-scribed, it is only a temporary measure.

It should always be remembered that menopausal symptoms may appear many months before the menses cease or may develop months or years after their cessation.

The woman's age is a less important factor than the recognition of the decreasing ovarian activity to which the characteristic and disturbing symptoms are due.

Sexual Intercourse

The capacity for enjoying sexual union is not lost at the change of life. In fact, where there is understanding, consistent and trusting love between husband and wife, intercourse can be of great reassurance at this time. It also gives the woman confidence that she is still attractive to her husband.

On the other hand, if a woman becomes apprehensive about sexual approaches from her husband, it is more often due to his lack of loving sympathy in the everyday business of living together since this can create a sense of apartness instead of unity in the marriage.

In the early stages of the menopause, when a wife first misses one or two menstrual periods, she may wonder whether she is pregnant or not, particularly if she has been neglectful in using contraceptives. A pregnancy can occur at this time but the chances are small compared with those of women in their twenties.

If in doubt consult your doctor who can arrange for a pregnancy test. Contraception should not be dispensed with until two years have elapsed since the last menstrual period.

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