We will not pretend that menopause is easy: the hot flushes, sleepless nights, anxiety and incontinence… On episode 11 of Sisters Without Shame, gynaecologist Dr Natalia Novikova helps to frame menopause and how to come to grips with this chapter of womanhood.
After a friend from Tshwane sent and SOS to the Sisters Without Shame, saying that she was caught off guard and feels clueless about the “big change” in her life, Novikova helps to patch some taboo information gaps on the subject.
Novikova is also an endoscopic surgeon practising in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. She further specialises in pelvic floor surgery, minimally invasive surgery and aesthetic gynaecology.
The most important part of the journey is to find what works for you, she says. “It is a new body and you have to kind of get used to it and work out what works for your new body in the transition of menopausal years.”
Change is inevitable
Menopause occurs naturally when a woman’s ovaries run out of functioning eggs. “As hormonal levels change, the brain stimulates ovaries to increase production of oestrogen and progesterone. At certain times of our lives (51, on average) we reach the stage where our ovaries no longer respond to this brain stimulation of releasing eggs and producing oestrogen and progesterone in quantities necessary to create the cycle.”
Menopause symptoms differ from woman to woman, but the transition includes symptoms like hot flushes, mood swings and night sweats, which occur because of big spikes in oestrogen levels.
To cope with those hot flushes and other symptoms, simple lifestyle measures could bring relief. Consider sleeping in a cold room with minimal cover for random heat episodes for instance, she advises.
Get a grip
Menopause is a time of change in a woman’s life. One of the changes that many women notice is increased difficulty to control the bladder, also called urinary incontinence. “[Incontinence treatment] depends on many factors. It is important to understand what women eat and what they drink, and how much they drink it.”
Novikova recommends pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen your muscles. “Every woman should do Kegel exercises several times a day,” she says. Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic-floor exercises, involve repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor.
The full interview with Novikova is now available on our podcast.
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