Everything you need to know about menopause, according to an expert

The need-to-knows


By Redzhanna Jazmin

Images: Eve Lau for BURO Malaysia
Everything you need to know about menopause, according to an expert

Today, we’re delving into one of life’s inevitabilities: Menopause. From what to expect to when to worry, here are all your burning questions—answered.

Women have so much to look forward to in life—firstly, we bleed for one week of each month of our fertile lives; then, we bear a child that we then have to push out and/or we’re diagnosed with PCOS, endometriosis, or any other gynaecological disease that remains severely underresearched and funded. Oh, and to top it all off, apparently, we all go insane once we hit 45! The joy.

At least, that’s what we’ve been led to think. In reality, while many facets of womanhood remain dire, there is also a lot of misinformation around that makes things seem a whole lot scarier. We’ve already tackled reproductive matters surrounding yeast infections, birth control and the like, so today, we’re tackling the taboo topic of menopause to round off the conversation.

To answer the most common questions and concerns about menopause, we spoke to Dr Wong Yen Shi, the Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV). Find the need-to-knows ahead:


What is menopause?

The definition of menopause is the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles, marking estrogen deficiency. It can occur any time after 40 years of age, but the average woman goes through menopause at about 50 years old. Further, according to Dr Wong, “a woman would only be classified as menopausal if she has no menses for a year”. 

As for what it looks like? Well, that can vary. When going through menopause, you may experience no symptoms or an array of symptoms—Dr Wong explains that these symptoms can include the absence of menses, hot flashes and night sweats, insomnia, mood changes, migraines, dry skin and frequent urinary tract infections (UTI).



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What is premature menopause and what causes it?

It’s important not to confuse premature menopause with early menopause—early menopause is menopause that happens between 40 to 45 years old while premature menopause is defined as menopause before 40 years old. Dr Wong explains that there could be several causes behind premature menopause including:

  • Surgical menopause or the removal of ovaries
  • Being on chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • Infections such as mumps
  • Certain chromosomal abnormalities
  • Certain autoimmune diseases


Is there any way to treat menopause?

Yes, but not in the way you think. If you’re suffering from menopausal symptoms, you can consider menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). “MHT is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms and is generally safe,” says Dr Wong. “It also aids in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.”


Is there any way to slow down menopause?

While there is no definitive way to slow down menopause, Dr Wong clarifies that healthy lifestyle choices can definitely help. For example, adopting healthy eating habits, getting enough sleep, keeping active and fit and steering clear of smoking and alcohol can all help to keep you in general good health and possibly postpone early menopause. Dr Wong also adds that eating foods that are high in vitamin D and phytoestrogens can also help. That said, if you’re a cis-woman, menopause will happen one way or another, so don’t expect it to stave off the process forever!



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Will menopause kill my sex drive?

Good news! No, it won’t. “Menopause does not necessarily kill a woman’s sex drive entirely,” says Dr Wong. “While it’s true that some women may experience changes in their libido during menopause, including a decrease in sex drive, it’s not universal. Every woman’s experience with menopause is unique, and factors such as hormone levels, physical health, emotional well-being, and relationship dynamics all play a role.”


What other menopause misconceptions are wrong?

When it comes to the myths around menopause, there are plenty. Here are all the biggest misconceptions Dr Wong has heard (that are totally false):

  1. Irregular menses equate to approaching menopause
  2. Menopause reduces sex drive
  3. Women age faster after menopause
  4. Women gain a lot of weight after menopause
  5. The older you start your period, the later your menopause will be
  6. Menopause is a terrible experience
  7. Hormone replacement therapy is bad


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When should I get help for my menopause symptoms?

PSA: As a woman, you should be getting regular gynaecological screenings regardless of your menopausal state. However, Dr Wong urges you to seek help if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Menopausal symptoms are intolerable/impact work, relationships
  • Abnormal vaginal/uterine bleeding
  • Keen to commence hormonal replacement therapy
  • Routine gynaecology screen
  • Hormonal replacement therapy fails to alleviate symptoms
  • Keen to know more about menopause and how to improve general health


What’s the TL;DR?

If there’s anything you should take away from this, it’s the following points:

  1. Healthy lifestyle would slow down menopause and make the symptoms less severe
  2. Go for routine gynaecological and medical screenings
  3. There are many medications and treatments available to help with menopausal symptoms
  4. Consult with a doctor if you have any concerns


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