Menopause: cause, symptoms, complaints and treatment

What exactly is meant when one says that a woman is going through menopause? You can describe menopause as the period in a woman’s life in which fertility decreases. The menopause usually starts around the age of forty-five and can end after the age of sixty. Just like with puberty, some women are more affected by it than others. What can you suffer from during this phase of life and what can you do about the complaints?

Article content

  • Transition
  • The three phases of transition
  • Why do some people suffer more from menopause than others?
  • The complaints and changes that can occur during menopause
  • What can you do about hot flashes?
  • What to do in case of mood swings?
  • What can you do about joint complaints?
  • Soy and exercise
  • Predicting age transition



When a woman is going through menopause, this means that the woman’s fertility is decreasing . This period begins approximately at the age of forty-five and can last until after the age of sixty . A woman’s body undergoes various changes. In the Netherlands, menopause begins on average around the age of forty-eight. The duration of the transition is on average between four and ten years.

The three phases of transition

1. Premenopause

At birth, a woman has something like two million eggs. The eggs stored in the ovaries produce the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen ensures the maturation of the eggs. The number of eggs decreases over the course of life and the ovaries therefore produce less estrogen. This makes menstruation irregular and can also lead to extra blood loss.

2. Menopause

This second phase begins approximately one year after the onset of premenopause. It is the time when the last menstrual period occurs. You can only be sure that it was your last menstrual period if you have not had your period for a year. For most women this is around the age of fifty.

3. Postmenopause

A woman’s body adapts to the changes after the last menstrual period. A new balance must be sought. It can cause physical and mental symptoms.

Why do some people suffer more from menopause than others?

Just like experiencing pain, women can experience menopause very differently. Physical condition may have an influence, but social factors can also play a role. The complaints that a woman has during menopause are not hereditary , so if your mother has had little trouble with menopause, it cannot be said that you will not have much trouble with it either.

The complaints and changes that can occur during menopause

  • Hot flashes/vapeurs : waves of heat sensations that come on suddenly, at any time of the day, in the upper part of a woman’s body. It can take anywhere from thirty seconds to a few minutes. The cause is reduced estrogen secretion during menopause. The autonomic nervous system is stimulated, the functions of the internal organs are regulated outside the will. The same applies to the blood vessel system. Due to disruption, you unexpectedly experience a short-term dilation of the blood vessels on the surface of the skin. Usually in the face, neck and chest. About seventy percent of Western women suffer from hot flashes. You can have a few hot flashes a day, but also a few a week.
  • Night sweats : hot flashes that occur during the night while sleeping. Night sweats can seriously disrupt your night’s sleep and can make you very tired.
  • Aging of the skin : due to the decrease in estrogen during menopause, the skin will age faster. The changes that take place in the body can influence the production and breakdown of collagen in the skin. The skin may become drier and thinner.
  • More bone cell breakdown than production : bones are built up until the age of thirty-five, after which more cells are broken down than created. The decrease in estrogen during menopause accelerates this process.
  • Mood swings : due to the uneven decrease in estrogen, you may experience mood swings. You feel cheerful at one moment and gloomy or irritable at the next. During menstruation this often only lasts for a short time, during menopause the complaints can last longer.
  • Irregular bleeding : this is one of the first symptoms of menopause, in premenopause. The number of eggs in the ovaries has decreased and therefore less estrogen is produced. This hormone ensures the maturation of the eggs, which is why menstruation becomes irregular. You may experience bleeding that is shorter and less frequent, but it may also be heavier and last longer.
  • Vaginal changes : The vaginal discharge may change. It can increase or decrease, the color can also change. This can cause the vagina to feel dry, burning or itchy. It may also be that the vaginal wall becomes more sensitive because it has become thinner. Dryness and sensitivity of the mucous membrane of the vagina can be remedied with estrogen suppositories or an estrogen cream. Consult with your GP.
  • Loss of libido : this can be caused by several things: hormone fluctuations can be the cause, or hot flashes that are unpleasant during sex. It can also become more painful due to dryness of the vagina.
  • Joint complaints : stiff muscles and joints, especially when getting up in the morning. You may experience pain when moving, but also pain when sleeping. This may involve pain in hands, fingers, wrists, knees, hips, thighs and shoulders. The pain complaints are often related to the aging of the body and the symptoms are exacerbated by the lack of estrogen during menopause. If the complaints are directly related to the menopause, the complaints will decrease with hormone administration. If you suffer from restless legs, this may be due to a magnesium deficiency.
  • Changed body odor : it is possible that someone in menopause experiences odors differently, but it may also be that, under the influence of hormones, the body odor is really different than before.
  • Change in the perception of taste : hormones can cause the perception of taste to change. You may taste better and your sensitivity to flavors may increase. You often see that people prefer fresh vegetables that are raw and someone has less interest in cooked vegetables. Many menopausal women suffer from less saliva production, which can also change the taste.
  • An allergy can return: if you suffered from an allergy as a child or at another stage in your life, that allergy can return during menopause. It could also be a worsening of an allergy. Cause: due to fluctuations in hormones, the amount of histamine in the body increases and this leads to complaints.
  • The voice may become lower : hormonal influences may cause the vocal cords to become slightly less flexible. This can make high notes a little more difficult to reach. The voice becomes lower and can sound somewhat masculine. A singer in menopause may suffer from menopausal voice syndrome.
  • Incontinence and bladder problems : menopause could slightly accelerate the development of incontinence. After menopause, complaints related to prolapse can increase at a faster pace. After menopause, women are more likely to have a bladder infection that returns.


What can you do about hot flashes?

  • Hot flashes may occur more often if you have tension , if you have drunk something hot, and spicy food, caffeine and alcohol can also trigger or worsen hot flashes. So pay attention to this.
  • Deep, slow abdominal breathing can help (inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth).
  • Exercise is important to ensure that you are less likely to get hot flashes.
  • Make sure you are not overweight: obese women are more likely to suffer from hot flashes and the hot flashes are often more intense.
  • Pay attention to your clothing , preferably choose breathable clothing or dress in layers so that you can take off something if you get too warm. For nightwear you can also choose fabric in which you do not perspire easily, the same applies to bedding (for example, do not choose satin).
  • Warm rooms can also trigger hot flashes, for example turn on a fan in the bedroom.
  • If you are experiencing a hot flash, dab the skin with cold water.
  • Smoking is a culprit , you may be more likely to suffer from hot flashes, but the hot flashes can also be more intense.
  • There are preparations containing salvia that help against hot flashes and night sweats.
  • If nothing helps and you continue to suffer from hot flashes that cause you a lot of trouble, you can opt for medication in consultation with your doctor . You can opt for hormone tablets or hormone patches. These medications contain estrogen (just like the pill, but in smaller amounts). Please note, the hormone tablets against menopausal symptoms do not protect you against pregnancy!
  • In the first months, the body will retain more fluid, you may experience tender breasts, headaches and nausea (contact your doctor if you are concerned). The monthly bleeding returns or irregular bleeding. The risk of thrombosis increases, the risk of breast cancer gradually increases. The risk of a heart attack or stroke increases slightly. Consult your doctor carefully about how long you can use the hormone tablets, preferably as short as possible. There are all kinds of products for sale for menopausal complaints, you have to be very critical because they can have serious side effects. Find out carefully what is known about a drug and consult with your doctor or pharmacist.


What to do in case of mood swings?

Feelings can change quickly (John laughs, Johnny cries), the depressive feelings often last longer, some women no longer dare to drive a car themselves or are afraid of being alone. Women can react more emotionally to all kinds of situations, crying fits are common.

  • A real depression must be ruled out.
  • Talking about possible causes, it can be due to age (midlife), due to the children leaving home (empty nest syndrome), worries about work, worries about parents.
  • Talk about work, take care of hobbies, possibly volunteer work.
  • Exercise is very important (endorphins are produced).
  • Ensure there is sufficient daylight, a good day and night rhythm and sufficient sleep.
  • Avoid situations that cause stress
  • Use as little coffee and alcohol as possible and pay attention to sugars.


What can you do about joint complaints?

  • Exercise is important
  • Stretching
  • A warm bath can reduce the symptoms
  • A massage
  • Try to avoid stress


Soy and exercise

Soya and exercise help against hot flashes . In a study by Penn State University in the United States, more than ninety women between the ages of forty and sixty were followed for two weeks. They wore equipment that measured physical activity and skin temperature. The women themselves also noted every hot flash. The women appeared to have fewer hot flashes after exercise, this effect lasted for a long time, about twenty-four hours. Eating soy also gave good results. Actually not surprising, in Japan, where a lot of soy is eaten, women suffer less from hot flashes. Soy contains isoflavones, these substances are very similar to estrogen (female sex hormone).

Predicting age transition

The age at which a woman enters menopause can be accurately determined using a blood test. Knowing when someone is going through menopause is important to freeze eggs in time and you can also detect health problems related to menopause in a timely manner. The amount of the Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) can predict when a woman will last menstruate. It can be predicted at a young age when a woman will become less fertile. The research result still needs to be confirmed in a second study.

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