Your mother is irritated, she is too not-in-the-mood to do anything, her mood swings make her go angry for a moment and the very next moment, she smiles. You find it difficult to talk to her properly and she often feels like spending time alone, and very often you don’t even know why she is behaving like this.
Well, don’t panic, it’s not an abnormality, it's is just the menopause phase that's to blame. Research has it that many women going through menopause, experience depression for no obvious reasons. And one of the main culprit for this is the hormonal system that undergoes changes and produces less hormones.
Majority of women suffer from at least a few symptoms. These range from irritability, anxiety and mood swings to physical symptoms including joint pain, constipation and skin rashes. “Hot flashes are very typical symptoms of menopause which can be distressing and can lead to disturbed sleep. They occur mainly in the night and last for 2 to 5 years” says Dr Sangeeta Agrawal, Consultant Gynecologist, Bombay Hospital.
But when exactly do you know, that you have entered the menopausal stage of life?
It's only after a woman hasn't had a period for at least a year that she is considered to have reached menopause. The mean age for menopause is 51 for Indians.
The problem period: However, as menopause rightly is the end of period in a woman’s life, which is good news, the problem usually arises during the period that leads up to menopause, called "perimenopause period". This time, that is, just before menopause, is troublesome for most, although some women also face depression when they attain menopause.
What happens during this phase is that there is a reduction in the estrogen levels, which has an effect on the central nervous system and the brain. At this time there are various other hormones that are liberated which cause fluctuations in mood, sleep disturbances and depression.
Along with this, it is during menopause that social circumstances along with health issues, also contribute to depression. For instance, children get married and move out leading to loneliness at home, health issues such as blood pressure start setting in and this is the time that retirement age approaches.
How do you overcome?
Now, to overcome the “depression” period, there are two kinds of treatments one can opt for: medical treatments (hormone therapy) or natural treatments. Often it is a combination of the two, as there is no one treatment that will work for all women.
Managing it the medical way:
Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy pertains to increasing estrogen levels in the body through a pill, spray, gel, or implant. However, as per a clinical study, which was conducted on more than 15000 women on an average, there are serious risks associated with the hormone therapy including risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots. As Dr Agrawal, puts it vividly “In Hormone therapy a very low dose hormone is given to the patient for a short duration. However, this treatment is given after adequate counseling and under good regular supervision. Hormone replacement therapy has pros and cons and therefore it has to be tailor made to suit the needs of the woman”.
Screening tests: At the time of perimenopause, it is advisable that you evaluate your own health and undergo a complete health check up which includes detailed history and examination followed by screening tests. Some of the screening tests as advised by gynecologists are, complete haemogram, sugars levels, liver, renal and lipid profile, thyroid function tests, Pap smear test and urine test. Also, the radiological tests include ultrasound of the abdomen and pelvis, mammography and dexa scanning.
Anti depressants: Anti depressants are generally given to the patient only when there is a dire need. It is administered in small dosages and over 4 to 6 months later, it is checked whether they benefit or not.
Non-prescribed medicines: Such non-prescribed medicines as phtyoestrogen containing isoflavons and black cohosh are being used and though they have shown benefit, the scientific evidence for their efficacy is controversial. At least they don’t have serious side effects and therefore are worth trying.
Managing it the natural way:
As far as possible, natural ways must be used to cure any ailment. These include, diet, physical exercise, and lifestyle management, mental fitness.
- Foods: “All kinds of foods must be consumed” says Dr Agrawal. On must consume lots of brightly coloured, fresh fruits and vegetables as they provide antioxidants to fight free radicals. Also a daily intake of flax seeds, almonds, walnuts, canola oil and soy which contain omega-3 fatty acids is a must in your diet. Eat red meats sparingly. Carbohydrates should come primarily from whole-wheat bread products, vegetables and fruit. "In fact, you need to increase your protein intake and decrease your carbs as you get older because it helps stabilize both insulin and estrogen levels." Fats should be high-quality fats such as olive oil. Look for hidden sugars in products; it's often disguised as corn syrup.
Menopause depression makes you over eat, thereby gaining weight. Try to walk everyday for at least about 30 minutes as it would keep you physically and mentally fit. "Women should do aerobic exercises along with weight training to slim down if needed, and to keep their metabolisms from slowing down and causing weight gain," she says. Exercise also helps to keep women from losing bone mass, a process that speeds up precipitously before and after menopause.
- Aromatherapy: This would do the trick for your mother's mind. Try chamomile, lavender, peppermint scents that would soothe her mind. And you can even use these scents in the warm water bath tub when your mother goes to bath.
- Say “no” to alcohol and tobacco: Research has it that after menopause, a woman’s chances of getting a heart attack is almost same as that of a man’s. Hence, smoking must be stopped. And as alcohol can cause weight gain and raise the risk of breast cancer, it is at best avoided especially during this period.
- Be positive: C'mon, it’s the end of a long and ardous journey, and your mother needs your support. Be positive and keep her happy.
- Talk to your doctor. There are lots of options for dealing with the symptoms and if something isn't working, take advice.
Help your mother overcome this phase of her life by listening to her, being patient and ensuring that she eats well and gets plenty of good sleep.