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  • Writer's pictureSociety of Bioethics and Medicine

Menopause And Where We Are With Technology

Written by Angel Joseph

Edited by Selma Music

Menopause has always been a taboo topic in society but medical research is paving the way for it to become a normalized conversation. Before the 19th century, menopause was considered to be impure since women had passed the age of their menstrual cycles. A majority of women aren’t educated on this topic, unfortunately. So how do you know if you’re experiencing menopause? Would you still be able to conceive children? How do you regulate menopausal symptoms? Luckily, recent studies can answer each of these questions in detail.

What Is Menopause?

Menopause starts when a woman has had their last period, which ended for over a full year. The woman is around 52 years of age by now. The menstrual cycle has stopped, meaning the ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone. Menopause takes on a mental toll as much as it does physically. Hormonal changes may bring on anxiety, stress, tiredness, irritability, etc. along with insomnia and vasomotor symptoms. 

Symptoms And What Causes Them

A study done by Dr. Lorraine Dennerstein and her colleagues in 2007 observed menopause-related symptoms in women aged 20 to 70.  Almost 36 symptoms were commonly experienced among these women. They found that 7 of these symptoms (hot flashes, sweating at night, insomnia, memory issues, dryness in the vagina, lack of sexual arousal, and pain in the head, neck, and shoulders) peaked at the age of 50 (Mattern, p. 334). Hormonal changes were deemed to be the cause of these symptoms in the female body. There is a decline in the estrogen and progesterone made in the ovaries which translates to less fertility in women with age. 

The most common symptom of menopause is a hot flash. A recent study, conducted by Stephanie Padilla and her colleagues from Seattle, has connected hot flashes stemming from the hypothalamus in the brain. We know it as a part of the brain that connects the endocrine and nervous systems and it’s used to keep your body in homeostasis. However, the hypothalamus also produces the hormones needed for hunger and thirst. This is where the hormones being circulated become harder to manage. When in menopause or during the transition to menopause, women experience changes in temperature regulation. Estrogen that passes through the brain controls the chemical signaling to and from neurons. This system goes unchecked when estrogen levels fluctuate. When the body temperature increases like this, the hypothalamus overreacts because it has conditioned itself to believe that the body is too hot. To achieve homeostasis, the body opens a link of blood vessels near the skin’s surface to increase blood flow and release heat to help you cool down. The irony is that this process, made to cool you down, causes you to feel even warmer and sweatier. To manage this symptom, researchers suggest women keep a balanced diet, especially when eating spicier foods, caffeinated beverages, smoking, etc. as they can be triggers to hot flashes (Faubion, p. 42-44). When the hot flashes become unbearable, consulting a doctor would be the best option. 

Future Of Fertility

Research is underway to determine how women experiencing menopause should deal with fertility. One common method is in vitro fertilization (IVF) where eggs are taken from the ovaries and they are fertilized in a laboratory setting. The fertilized eggs are then transferred back into the uterus to complete the 9 months of pregnancy. Freezing eggs has become more and more popular, especially for women who have cancer or undergoing variations of therapy (Devi & Thokchom p. 284). Some cons that women might face with this advancement are the cost and insurance coverage. Dr. Stephanie Faubion shows that if there was a reduction in these insurance rejections, there would be an increase in average fertility (Faubion, p. 69-70). 

A female is born with 6-7 million eggs in her ovaries. By the time she reaches menopause, she has roughly 1,000 eggs left. The conflict here is quality vs. quantity since older eggs have shown to have more genetic mutations. Sperm also swim slower and slower with age which increases the chances of their offspring having abnormalities. A demographic study has shown that if technology continues advancing by 2100, 400 million people will be conceived with reproductive technology worldwide (Faubion, p. 71). 

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is the use of female hormones, such as low doses of estrogen, to manage the symptoms of menopause. Hormonal therapy starting from a young age would be more beneficial as opposed to starting later in life. Estrogen is the primary hormone that eases symptoms of menopause (Faubion, p.109). Research is still progressing with this topic to explore the risks hormone therapy has on cardiovascular outcomes. However, a recent study conducted with tissue-selective estrogen complex (TSEC) shows that estrogen has an impact in reducing the symptoms of menopause and increasing bone density while decreasing the risk of multiple cancers (Taylor & Manson, p. 262). Hormone therapy benefits vasomotor symptoms including sleep disorders, bone loss, cognitive functions, etc. It helps with a better quality of life with better skin and reduces cataracts and glaucoma. In the musculoskeletal system, it reduces bone turnover and the number of osteoporosis fractures. Hormone therapy can also help with an improvement in mood and depression that’s related to menopause as well (Fait, p. 2-3). 

While technology, to ease the process of menopause, is advancing with time, we too should be advancing and becoming more open-minded on this topic. Once we start to normalize this conversation, educating the coming generations about their future will be much easier. Don’t forget to be thankful for technological advancements this holiday season!


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