Refinery29 & The Case For Her — Research: Menopause.
What is the menopause?
In short, the menopause is when a person born woman (transgender, non-binary) stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The process of menopause usually begins when periods become less frequent a few months or years until they stop altogether, while for some people it can be a sudden stop.
Menopause is a natural part of ageing and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 (in the UK, the average is 51) as this is when women’s oestrogen levels decline. Despite this, 1 in 100 people experience menopause before the age of 40 which is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
What causes the menopause?
When there is a change in the balance of the female body’s sex hormones which naturally occurs as you get older. One’s ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen and no longer release an egg each month.
Meanwhile premature menopause can happen at any age and may happen for different reasons but in many cases there is no clear cause. However, sometimes it may be the result of a medical treatment such as, surgery to remove the ovaries, breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy/radiotherapy or it can be the cause of an underlying health condition.
What are the common symptoms?
The symptoms vary from each person, some can be quite severe and have an affect on one’s everyday life, while for others, they’re tolerable.
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- vaginal dryness
- dry skin, mouth and eyes
- discomfort during sex
- sore or tender breasts
- increased urination
- difficulty sleeping
- reduced sex drive (libido)
- problems with memory and concentration
- high blood pressure
- reduced muscle mass
- painful or stiff joints
- reduced bone mass
- weight gain
- hair thinning or loss
- increased hair growth on other areas of the body, such as the face, neck, chest, and upper back
The treatments and lifestyle changes for menopause symptoms:
- hormone replacement therapy: tablets, skin patches, gels and implants that relieve menopausal symptoms by replacing oestrogen.
- vaginal oestrogen creams, lubricants or moisturisers for vaginal dryness
- cognitive behavioural therapy: a type of talking therapy that can help with low mood and anxiety
- eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly — maintaining a healthy weight.
Other treatments include:
Antidandruff shampoos, creams for unwanted hair growth, serotonin pills for hot flashes, anxiety and depression, moisturisers, lubricants or pills for vaginal dryness, pills for painful intercourse, antibiotics for UTIs, sleep medications and many, many more.
However, their are many symptoms that aren’t addressed in the media/advertising and often go ignored or mistreated.
Lifestyle changes suggested:
Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight by reducing daily calorie intake by 400–600 calories. To exercise moderately for 20 to 30 minutes a day, the effect of this will:
- increase energy
- promote a better night’s sleep
- improve mood
- promote your general well-being
Taking daily supplements along with your diet such as, calcium, vitamin D and magnesium to reduce risk of osteoporosis and improve energy levels and better sleep.
Practising relaxation and breathing techniques through:
- box breathing
To communicate your feelings and needs, whether that be through a therapist or psychologist or even talking to family members and loved ones. To not feel alone.
Perimenopause VS. menopause VS. postmenopause
- During perimenopause, periods become irregular, and menstrual flow may either become heavier or lighter.
- Menopause is defined when there is a lack of menstruation for twelve months.
- Postmenopause refers to the years after menopause has occurred.
Do transgender women experience menopause?
To assist in medical transition, transgender women (born as male sex) are prescribed estrogen which is an androgen blocker. Similar to how cis women may use HRT to replace estrogen, trans women can use HRT to increase estrogen levels and lower testosterone levels. Additionally, some transgender people may choose to undergo gender-affirming surgeries.
When hearing menopause, it is often associated and talked about in regards to cisgender women where their ovary functions naturally reduce. With this, transgender women can also experience symptoms of menopause just like PMS — as a response to hormone fluctuations even if the root is different.
As transgender women age, some may choose to lower their estrogen dose or stop HRT completely, as a result, this may trigger reactions that are similar to menopause symptoms but are mitigated if they’re still producing endogenous testosterone. So do transgender women experience menopause? Yes and no.
Do transgender men experience menopause?
For those who identify as a man but haven’t undergone medical interventions, meaning they still have the female reproductive system, they are likely to go through menopause. However, for those who have undergone surgeries and receive the gender affirming hormones given to trans-men which are typically given for the rest of their life, then they will never experience menopause.