Shooing away menopausal blues

MANY WOMEN go through months of agony tolerating the physical and mental symptoms of menopause before they gather the courage to talk about it to a friend or a member of the family.

By then, they would have lost quite a lot of energy and their grumpiness taken a toll on relationships.

People think menopause just means heavy bleeding and pain. Few know that it can manifest itself in many other ways since it involves hormones, or the lack of them.

Though easy to treat, many stay away from doctors and allow menopause to rule their lives and mind.

Thanks to societal conditioning, Indian women tend to think this condition should not be discussed in the open and suffer their own private hell. "I at times wonder if tiffs between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law are caused due to menopause. A mother-in-law is invariably in her middle age and going through a lot of emotional upheaval. Small disagreements that can normally be ironed out, take on gigantic proportions because of this," says gynaecologist Vani Mohan.

During times like this, family support can work miracles. "For years, the wife has been absorbing the tensions of the husband. At least during this stage, the man must understand why a woman is behaving this way. He will sympathise with her better," she avers.

Dr. Suma Natarajan of GKNM Hospital says that working women are in a slightly better position to tackle menopause.

"Middle age is the time when both men and women are at the peak of their careers. A homemaker is hurt that her husband does not have time for her. She feels less attractive and wanted."

And, if you thought surgery would rid you of all problems, think again. "When you attain natural menopause, the hormone levels get reduced slowly. That is not the case when the uterus and ovaries are surgically removed. There is sudden hormone depletion and it tells on a woman. The symptoms are that much harder to tackle."

This is where Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) comes in. Though there were reports suggesting a link with cancer, doctors say that if administered correctly, HRT can offer a wonder cure.

Dr Chanda Dasgupta of Rao Hospital says that careful selection of drugs can combat fear of cancer. "Calcium supplements and HRT definitely help drive the blues away," she states.

"Follow-up is very important in HRT," says Dr. Vani. "Unfortunately, many of our people don't believe in coming back to the doctor once the symptoms subside." Dietary habits and exercising can also help manage menopause better.

"Your gynaecologist can be the best family physician, but many women come to us after they have tried out everything else," she rues.

That is something Dr. Asha Rao agrees with. "After this problem is discussed at home, visits to various doctors begin. People go to all doctors, even psychiatrists, before knocking at the doors of a gynaecologist. Symptoms get aggravated due to certain causes like empty-nest syndrome. A woman is miserable when the children move out. She feels less needed and loved. Support from the spouse will work wonders then," she says.