Durban — Menopause is not a sickness or a disease, but a normal physiological process that all women go through when they reach a certain age.
The head of the Obstetrics & Gynaecology Department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Tshidi Sebitloane, said menopause was at the opposite end of menarche, the first occurrence of menstruation.
She said menopause comes at the end of the reproductive age. Its onset is around the ages of 45 to 55, with an average of about 52.
By the age of 55, a woman ought to have stopped having her periods. The signal is when the periods come to an end, but there are many other signs that go along with it.
“There are indeed occasions of premature menopause. For instance, if it comes before the age of 40, that becomes a concern, because menopause goes along with the ‘closing down’ of the hormones. When you get to an age where you don’t get your period for about 12 months, at the right age – between the ages of 45 and 55 – we consider that menopause,” explained Sebitloane.
She said should one go back to menstruating after 12 months of “closure”, they must consider that as post-menopausal bleeding, meaning an investigation is needed as it could be abnormal.
“A person should not go back to having her periods once they’ve reached menopause. So, if it ever happens, you must come forward and undergo tests, so that we can rule out cancer because that is always our biggest concern when that happens. You then need to receive attention,” she said.
Explaining the menopause symptoms Sebitloane said there were many symptoms and one of them included strength of the bone, which usually affects the spine.
She said that is why we see some people walking with their backs hunched. She said other symptoms included hot flashes, difficulty with sleep, irritability, decreased libido, vaginal dryness and many others.
“Some people can’t tolerate all of these symptoms, and then decide to come forward and seek help. If it happens that you can’t tolerate the emotions and all of that, the doctors will put you on hormone-replacement therapy.
“They basically give you back those hormones which have closed down,” she said.
She urged women who are struggling with menopause to visit their local clinic and speak to a healthcare professional. They will then be assessed and, if deemed necessary, get referred to a higher level or care.
KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said the time has come for society to break the silence on menopause, whose effects can expose women to a myriad of health problems and place a huge strain on interpersonal relationships.
She said it was a shame that there is still just too little awareness about menopause – particularly in the black community – as well as the available options for hormone-replacement therapy to help struggling women cope better.
“What we’d like fellow compatriots to know and understand is the fact that there is therapy in the Department of Health.
“Let us speak to health professionals and enquire about hormone-replacement therapy. Part of our job as government is to bring knowledge to the people, that they were not privy to in the past. We are urging them to take this knowledge and use it,” she urged.
WhatsApp your views on this story to 071 485 7995.