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Aging

The Effects of Menopause

I realize the effects of menopause doesn't seem to correspond to the joy of aging. Nonetheless, it is a topic that needs to be addressed because it is a personal experience that is as individual as each of us. So, what really happens to our bodies when our estrogen levels drop and we begin to feel all of the unusual results?

As women we have come to accept and understand that the effects our reproductive systems are inevitable. At the perimenopausal stage women generally begin to recognize the symptoms as hot flashes, night sweats and moods swings. It is interesting to note that although no one has determined exactly what causes hot flashes, they are most prominent among women in Western countries. As menopause progresses the uterus begins to shrink as do the breasts, which begin to lose their firmness. The walls of the vagina become thinner, less elastic and dry which can result in yeast infections and painful intercourse. These are all normal progressions in the female body that we have little control over. However, an OB GYN was telling me that studies in England have shown that the more frequent a woman has intercourse during and after menopause, the less painful it is. Low estrogen levels become more uniform during post-menopause. The effects of this stage can include joint aches, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, muscle weakness, and general feeling of fatigue.

As if that weren't enough, there are a wide range of other issues that can be the result of these three stages in a woman's life. Among these are a feeling of lethargy, irritability and, the icon of menopause, emotional mood swings that have no apparent source.

Any of these effects can be debilitating, but especially the ones we know very little about. There is one that can be devastating: that is succumbing to the Victorian social belief that you are not whole or complete as a woman when you cannot bear children. In fact, we are experiencing perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause squares the circle of fertility.

Today we have more knowledge of our bodies than we have ever had. There are therapies and treatments that can minimize the effects of these progressions of life and it is our responsibility to learn about them and to understand the metamorphosis we are experiencing.

There is life during and after menopause and there is no reason we should not be living it to the fullest. There are too many experiences and discoveries awaiting nothing more than our presence in the physical, mental and spiritual realities in which we truly exist. That is a joy of aging!

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