In a recent survey it was found that approximately 150 million women in India are going through pre, peri, post and full blown menopause. However, as with menstruation there is a traditional silence around menopause. To learn the truth about this very crucial stage in a woman’s life, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr. Neha Khadpe was invited as a guest on The Navhind Times, talk show, Talk from the Heart. The Talk encompassed all aspects of this phase and aired on the Goa 365 channel on August 27. 

Citing the World Health Organization’s definition of menopause Dr. Khadpe explained how complete cessation of the menstrual cycle for at least a period of 1 year is termed menopause and added, “This does not happen suddenly and starts at different ages for different women, normally between the ages of 45 and 55. Reasons for this variation, she said are genetics, diet, lifestyle, physical activity, besides others.

Asserting that menopause is not a one-time event, she added, “Menopause is a gradual and natural process which involves numerous hormonal and physiological changes. During this phase the endometrial lining becomes thin and there is depletion of the estrogen hormone which causes different symptoms. The different phases like pre, peri, post and the actual menopause can span anywhere from 2 to 15 years; again it all differs from woman to woman. 

The hormonal changes associated with menopause can affect not just the physical but also the emotional, mental and social well-being of a woman. The most common symptoms of menopause are night sweat, hot flushes, irregular periods, osteoporosis, dryness of the skin, etecetera. Explaining the night flushes, she said, “The estrogen in the body acts on the hypothalamus and role of the hypothalamus is to regulate the body temperature. So, when there is a decrease in the level of estrogen, there will invariably be a feeling of extra warmth or heat.” 

Memory deficit, loosening of the skin, increase in the number of allergic reactions, insomnia, urinary tract infections, calcium deficit, brain fog and itching of the body were some of the other symptoms she spoke about. “The decrease in the estrogen also causes vaginal dryness which leads to pain during sexual intercourse,” she answered, when asked about the effect on women’s libido during menopause.

Mood swings, depression and anxiety during menopause were topics; Dr. Khadpe spoke about at length and highlighted the crucial role of family support. “Communication is key during this phase and support from the husband/partner and children is indeed most essential,” she asserted and recommended various activities for couples that can help manage menopause better. “This is a time for a woman to come out of her shell and starting living for herself as by this time normally, the children are older and more independent or have left the house,” she opined.

Regular exercise, yoga, staying in touch with friends and family, pursuing hobbies, sharing your menopause experiences with others facing similar issues and seeking help if required, were some of the ways she suggested to deal with menopause. “We need to have more conversations like these and there should be no taboo whatsoever to speak about this issue,” she stressed.