Wednesday, June 6, 2012

World Menopause Week

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By Diane Forrest, RN

I remember growing up watching Little House on the Prairie.  It was a show about the lives of settlers in a small community and their daily struggles with life in the wilderness.  The show focused around Ma and Pa Ingles and their 3 daughters and their life on the farm. One story was about Ma Ingles.  She has missed her monthly cycle, and had gone to visit old Dr. Baker with the suspicions that she was pregnant.   She was worried about being pregnant, their family was large enough and the cost of another child would be a burden that she wasn't happy to accept.  After her visit to the doctor, she learned that not only was she not pregnant, but she was going through "the change" and would never be able to have another child again.  Now you think she would have been happy with this news, but quite the contrary.   She believed that with the loss of her ability to conceive, she had lost her "womanhood" and her function for being.
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This was a heart wrenching episode, and of course Pa Ingles was right beside her to comfort her and ensure her that her reason for being was not over, that he and the family depended on her for so much more, and his love for her had not changed.  Many women still the ability to produce a child as their main function in life, and it is devastating to them when the time of Menopause enters their life.

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Some of the signs that Menopause has begun to occur include:
  • Menstrual periods that occur less often and eventually stop
  • Heart pounding or racing
  • Hot flashes, usually worst during the first 1-2 years
  • Night sweats
  • Skin flushing
  • Sleeping problems (insomnia)
  • Decreased interest in sex, possibly decreased response to sexual stimulation
  • Forgetfulness (in some women)
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings including irritability, depression, and anxiety
  • Urine leakage
  • Vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal infections
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Irregular heartbeat

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There is no way to prevent the occurrence of Menopause; it is a natural process of aging.  Some measures you can take to help ease the symptoms include:
  • There are other medicines available to help with mood swings, hot flashes, and other symptoms. These include:
  • Antidepressants
  • A blood pressure medicine
  • A seizure drug that also helps reduce hot flashes

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Hormones are not always needed to reduce symptoms of menopause. There are many steps you can take to reduce symptoms.
Diet changes:
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods
  • Eat soy foods. Soy contains estrogen
  • Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D in food or supplements

Exercise and relaxation techniques:
  • Get plenty of exercise.
  • Do Kegel exercises every day. They strengthen the muscles of your vagina and pelvis.
  • Practice slow, deep breathing whenever a hot flash starts to come on. Try taking six breaths a minute.
  • Try yoga, tai chi, or meditation.

Other tips:
  • Dress lightly and in layers.
  • Keep having sex.
  • Use water-based lubricants or a vaginal moisturizer during sex.
  • See an acupuncture specialist.

This is World Menopause Week.  If you are experiencing "the change" or know someone who is, remember to have patience and give support and encouragement.

Before you know it they will be back to their old self in no time.
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