Menopause: Could this be the reason my mum acts the way she does?
Anna just turned 27, she is very excited and is looking forward to more from life. She is an only child and her mum is her best friend, but there is something she is not happy about – how her relationship with her mum has degenerated.
Her mum has always been a sweet woman, very loving and friendly, but right now, Anna thinks her mum acts just like a ‘teenager’; losing her cool at the slightest chance, shouting over nothing and just not happy.
Anna’s concerns reminded me of a couple of other people who have expressed similar concerns. Some cannot just understand the change and why ‘mum’ seems to be acting like a shadow of herself. A young lady remarked, “I will never act like that because I know how my children would feel, mum needs to put herself together”.
Joan and Mary, very close friends in their mid 50s, shared some concerns about the changes they have observed in their bodies. Joan and Mary sweat a lot and do not like it, but cannot help it. “It is part of menopause”, they chuckle. Oh yes! Menopause!
Mary is a health expert and has a positive perspective about menopause which is so contagious. Thus, I decided to schedule an interview with her:
Chidi – Thanks for being willing to share your experience.
Mary – Anytime! I wish I had enough information about this issue long before I did. I guess I would have handled things better from the start, I would have educated my husband and children about it, so that we all are on the same page.
Chidi – Hmmm… Please shed some light on menopause.
Mary – This is a period in which a woman no longer has monthly periods as her ovaries stop producing eggs due to a decrease in oestrogen level. Oestrogen is the sex hormone in a female that regulates her period. Some women experience it in their 30s or 40s, but the average age is early 50s. The normal thing is that the flow becomes less frequent.
Chidi – Please highlight some symptoms of menopause.
Mary – Recent research reveals that depression occurs during the period before menopause, called perimenopausal years. During this period, oestrogen level gradually drops, which may lead to depression. Depression and the onset of menopause have similar symptoms, such as sleep problems, tiredness, irritability, anxiety and lack of concentration. Other symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, mood change, sudden weight gain/loss, palpitations, loss of sex drive, discomfort during sex due to vaginal dryness, urinary problems and other symptoms. The perimenopausal period ends when a woman has gone 12 months without having her period. However, some women don’t experience this period because they experience menopause suddenly.
Menopause can even cause joints and muscles to hurt. The drop in oestrogen levels can affect the hydration of joints, ligaments and tendons, causing pain, stiffness and change in posture.
Menopause affects women differently. Some women have a problem-free menopause, while a good number experience symptoms, from mild to severe. Many factors, such as lifestyle, diet, genetics,… contribute to the severity of the symptoms and the duration of menopause. According to a new survey, the symptoms last an average of three years, eight months and 20 days.
There is so much to say about menopause in a short time.
Chidi– I can imagine. What steps would you recommend for managing these symptoms?
Mary– There are different things women can do which include, but not limited to:
– Drink plenty of water. Amongst other things, this will help keep the joints hydrated and could help you deal with night sweats (to help you with night sweats, drink just before bedtime).
– Keep an eye on your diet – Avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks, high salt, sugary foods. Caffeine and sugar trigger flushes. Include two to three portions of calcium-rich foods in your diet daily as menopause causes you to lose calcium in your bones. Try to maintain a healthy weight for your height.
– Keep stress level low as stress can have a huge impact. Take out time to rest. This will also boost your relationships.
– Regular exercise will help a great deal. 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week will be fine. This will help your bones, help you manage anxiety and improve bladder control.
– Use health screening services. According to research, late menopause leads to increased risk of breast cancer. Screening services will help detect the risk soon enough.
I always tell women to always remember that “your health is your responsibility and your body deserves good care.”
Chidi – Wow! You are so right. You mentioned that you wish you had enough information earlier.
Mary – Yes, some children complain about the change in their mothers, especially as regards mood swing. To help children cope better, they need some information about this phase of life. As a young woman, I thought menopause meant the stop of blood flow and that was all. I never knew that there are other symptoms women have to deal with. As I got older, I would just lapse into depression, be unhappy and be unhappier if anyone at home was happy. My children described the experience as walking on egg shells.
On the other hand, my husband was in the dark. He wondered what had happened to me. I was quite unfriendly sometimes, complained that he was demanding sex too much and was insensitive to how I felt. He will tell you it was a tough time.
Friends and family must try to be as supportive as possible, but this can be achieved when they have necessary information.
Chidi – Hmmm… how did things change?
Mary – One day, I was in a good mood and it seemed strange to everyone at home. I started asking myself questions. You won’t believe this, but this sparked a desire in me to research more, and of course, I took to the path of health and medicine!
Chidi – Wow! This is getting interesting.
Mary – I began to gather information and took my time to educate my husband and children about it. This has created a level of openness in our relationship and my husband feels free to let me know when I start acting strange or when my irresponsiveness to sex starts going too far. You know, changes in hormones make the vagina dryer and can make sex painful. For this, I would recommend some lubricants; women, go speak to your doctor *Smiles*. Having more sex will increase your blood flow and boost your vaginal health.
On the other hand, it has helped my children know that when mum is not happy, they are not the problem, so there is no need to feel guilty. I also do my best, with the help of God, to turn around quickly.
Chidi – Nice! What advice do you have for women going through similar symptoms?
Mary – I must say that it is important for husbands to realise that at this stage, their understanding and patience would be tested. They will have to suspend their emotional needs for a while and learn more emotional skills. However, women MUST learn to manage their emotions. Personally, my relationship with the Holy Spirit keeps me going. It is like a base for my emotions and keeps me balanced. Get rooted in God’s word so that when your mood “swings”, the word in your spirit will come alive and become an anchor. It is very frustrating for members of your family to have to put up with your mood swings. A husband might decide that he has ‘understood’ enough and crack.
Relationships are precious, we cannot afford to lose the quality relationships we have built most of our lives because of a phase of life.
Chidi – Thank you so much, very informative and impactful. In as much as every woman’s experience may not be the same, how it is managed will be based on the level of knowledge, exposure and maturity. Not handling this phase properly can affect your relationship with your children and your marital romance because it can hurt and alienate the people you love the most. Why ruin your family and the romance that took you years to build?
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