Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles and reproductive years. The term encompasses many changes that women experience just before or after they stop having their period.
Menopause is a natural occurrence and is not typically caused by a medical or surgical event. However, in some circumstances, early menopause may occur, such as after a hysterectomy or chemotherapy.
Every woman is born with all of the eggs she will have for her lifetime, stored in her ovaries. Interestingly, baby girls are born with an incredible 1 million eggs at a minimum, but that number begins to decrease right away. By the time a woman reaches childbearing years in her teens, she has approximately 400,000 eggs remaining and loses more with each period. By the time the average woman reaches menopause, eggs are effectively gone, as is her body’s ability to release any remaining eggs. (Ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, which control menstruation and ovulation.)
Fast Fact: Menopause happens when the ovaries no longer release an egg every month, and menstruation ceases.
Menopause is considered a normal part of aging if it occurs after the age of 40.
Signs and Stages of Menopause
One of the first symptoms of menopause which women experience is hot flashes, which are sudden feelings of heat that spread over the upper body. These episodes are unpredictable and can be mild to severe.
Early signs of menopause also include irregular or missed periods, sore breasts, frequent urge to urinate, sleep disruption, dry eyes, skin and mouth, vaginal dryness, and emotional swings or changes.
Later symptoms can include fatigue, depression, irritability, headaches, rapid heartbeat, joint pain, loss of sex drive, weight gain, and hair loss.
Cannabis to Treat Symptoms of Menopause
Over two new million women reach menopause annually, while 27 million others are already in some stage of it.
New data released by the North American Menopause Society at their September 28, 2020, annual meeting indicated that a growing number of women are interested in utilizing medical cannabis to manage their menopause symptoms – and many are already doing so. Industry watchers attest that as legislation has eased, cannabis is increasingly being used to manage chronic health conditions and mood symptoms. The physical and emotional changes experienced by menopausal women appear to fall nicely into those categories.
The study included a sample of 232 women with a mean age of 56 years. Symptoms which study participants reported included:
69% -genitourinary symptoms
54% – hot flashes and night sweats
27% – insomnia
One surprising aspect of the data is that only 19% of the women reported using hormone therapy or other more conventional treatments. In contrast, 27% of women reported using cannabis to treat their more troublesome menopausal symptoms. An additional 10% expressed an interest in trying medical cannabis.
Across every demographic (age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status), women most used cannabis to relieve hot flashes and night sweats.
“These findings suggest that cannabis use to manage menopause symptoms may be relatively common. This information is important for healthcare providers, and more research in this area is needed,” says Carolyn Gibson, PhD, MPH, a psychologist and health services researcher at San Francisco VA Health Care System and the lead author of the study. (“Cannabis use for menopause symptom management among midlife women veterans”)
What is unclear from the study is if the women are using cannabis under the supervision of a medical professional. Here in Florida, medical cannabis is legal for use in treating a wide variety of medical conditions. If you have questions regarding menopause symptoms or would like to explore treatment for another medical condition, call Neurology of Cannabis today.
Dr. Daniel P. Stein is considered an expert in his field and is available for consultation. He can be reached at (941) 400-1211.