Enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Understanding menopause
All women are born with a certain number of eggs in their ovaries. When women have their menstrual period every month, they will lose a number of eggs. This process will repeat throughout their lifetime. Women are not capable of making new eggs; when there are no eggs remain, women will enter a stage called menopause.1

What is menopause?

Menopause is the time when menstrual periods have stopped for 1 year in women aged 50 years and above, or for 2 years in women aged below 50 years.2,3 It is a part of natural ageing process in every woman, and happens when the ovaries no longer have eggs to release. Menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the sex hormones in the body.1,2

Menopause usually happens at the age ranging from 45 to 55 years.1 In Malaysia, the average age for menopause in women is 51 years.4 Menopause can also happen at a younger age if a woman1:

  • Has a family history of early menopause;
  • Is a smoker;
  • Has undergone chemotherapy or radiotherapy for any kind of cancer; or
  • Has had both her ovaries removed.

However, if a woman had her uterus removed due to conditions such as fibroids or bleeding, it does not mean that she has reached menopause. Removal of uterus will only stop her from monthly bleeding, but her ovaries will continue to work normally until she reaches her menopause.1

How do I know if I am reaching my menopause soon?

Before reaching your menopause, you will first go through perimenopause, a transition stage that occurs 4 to 5 years or maybe even longer (ie, 8 to 10 years) before menopause.5,6 Your body will go through the following stages during this time5:


During perimenopause, some women may also experience symptoms such as1:
  • Feeling hot and sweaty, mainly over the upper part of the body (hot flushes);
  • Cranky moods; and
  • Feeling tired and lack of energy.

What are the common symptoms of menopause?

The common symptoms of menopause may include2,3:

  • A short duration of feeling hot and sweaty, mainly over the upper part of the body (hot flushes). This symptom can begin from the face, neck or chest, and subsequently spreading upwards and downwards. The skin of the affected areas may become red and patchy
  • Night sweats (hot flushes that occur at night)
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse due to vaginal dryness and pain
  • Increased anxiety or irritability
  • Sensation of unusual heartbeats (feeling of skipping a beat or having an extra beat)
  • Headaches
  • Sleeping problems (eg, difficulty in getting to sleep)
  • Urinary symptoms (eg, urinary tract infections, frequent need to urinate)
  • Loss of sex drive
The severity of these menopausal symptoms may vary from one woman to another, depending on several factors including genetics, lifestyle, diet, stress and overall health.2

How long would my menopause last and what happens next?

Menopause affects every woman differently; therefore, it is difficult to predict the overall duration of menopause for each individual.2 In general, however, a woman is considered to reach the post-menopause stage when she has not had her period for an entire year. A gradual relief from your menopausal symptoms may also be a sign that you are near to the end of your menopause.7

You may regain your energy once you reach post-menopause, but you may now be at higher risks for other health conditions (eg, osteoporosis and heart diseases) due to the low level of oestrogen in your body.7 Oestrogen plays an important role in preserving your bone mass and maintaining your cholesterol levels in the blood.6

References

  1. Malaysian Menopause Society. What do you need to know about menopause? Available at: http://menopause.org.my/menopause/index.html. Accessed 16 October, 2015.
  2. NHS Choices. Menopause. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/Pages/Introduction.aspx . Accessed 16 October, 2015.
  3. WebMD. Menopause overview. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/menopause/. Accessed 16 October, 2015.
  4. Ismael NN. Maturitas 1994;19:205–209.
  5. Prevention. Is it perimenopause? Available at: http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/symptoms-and-treatments-menopause-and-perimenopause . Accessed 16 October, 2015.
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Menopause. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic-what-is-perimenopause-menopause-postmenopause . Accessed 23 October, 2015.
  7. WebMD. Your health in postmenopause. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/health-after-menopause . Accessed 23 October, 2015.