What is Menopause?
Menopause is the term that describes the end of menstruation. A woman has reached menopause once she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. This time in a woman’s life may be dramatically transitional, involving changes to her physical health, emotional wellness, and day-to-day life. Support for these changes helps a woman maintain her best quality of life.
What causes Menopause to happen?
The onset of perimenopause, the phase leading up to the end of the menstrual cycle, is triggered by a change in the production of estrogen and progesterone. Menopause can also be brought on by a hysterectomy in which the ovaries are removed. This happens because the ovaries are responsible for the production of the hormones necessary for ovulation and menstruation.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), also known as premature ovarian failure, is a condition that may cause a younger woman to enter menopause early. Women under age 40 may experience elevates FSH levels, intermittent periods, and other perimenopausal symptoms.
At what age does menopause start?
Typically, a woman begins to transition toward menopause sometime around the age of 45. The perimenopause stage can last 7 to 14 years.
What are the Stages of Menopause?
Perimenopause is the initial stage of the transition to menopause. It is in this phase when the ovaries stop producing regulated estrogen and progesterone. As hormones begin to shift, various symptoms provide clues that the transition is progressing.
Natural menopause is the spontaneous, permanent end of the menstrual cycle. Natural menopause is not caused by medical treatment but by the natural decline of estrogen and progesterone.
Postmenopause is the stage of life after menstruation has ended. Though a woman no longer has her period, she may experience occasional symptoms like hot flashes as estrogen levels continue to decline.
What are the symptoms of Menopause?
The transition into menopause can bring a number of symptoms because many of the body’s systems use estrogen. Some signs that perimenopause has begun include:
Changes in menstruation.
As hormones shift, periods may become heavier or lighter. They may last longer or not as long as they once did. These are normal changes. However, women should talk to their doctors about them. Medical therapies may be recommended to help alleviate troublesome symptoms like heavy bleeding, spotting, periods that last more than a week, periods that come very close together, or periods that resume after many months.
Hot flashes are sudden events that bring a feeling of heat to the entire body or just the upper body. A hot flash can cause flushing in the face and neck, and blotchiness on the chest, arms, and back. Heavy sweating may occur, followed by cold shivering. Hot flashes that occur during sleep are called night sweats. This symptom can occur only every few weeks, every few hours, or not at all.
Bladder control and vaginal health changes.
Hormones are responsible for the integrity of the vaginal lining. Women approaching menopause may face an increase in vaginal infections, bladder infections, and painful intercourse caused by vaginal dryness. The change in the vaginal canal may also coincide with pelvic floor weakening, which may result in stress urinary incontinence.
Night sweats are only one symptom that may affect a woman’s sleep cycle. During perimenopause, many women find that they have a hard time falling asleep. If they fall asleep well, they may wake up before they have gotten a full night’s rest.
Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels influence a person’s libido. The shifts that occur in mid-life cause many women to feel differently about sex. Their interest and energy to devote to sexual intimacy may change as a result of hormones or other menopausal symptoms. Examples include fatigue, weight gain, and depression.
Scientists are not sure why, but they do acknowledge that perimenopause affects a woman’s mood. Women may feel more irritable or more emotional at times when no external triggers are known. Like sex drive, mood changes may relate to other age-related changes, from lack of sleep to lifestyle factors.
During perimenopause and menopause, a woman’s body may feel different from week to week. Various symptoms may come and go unpredictably. In addition to well-known symptoms, a woman going through her change of life may experience random muscle aches, headaches, heart palpitations, weight gain, and other concerns.
How can Menopause be managed?
Your transition into menopause is a personal journey that your healthcare provider can help you navigate. Getting help with menopause management does not mean you must begin hormone replacement therapy. Although this is an option that some women prefer, many simply attend to their health and wellness using lifestyle remedies.
Some tips that can help include:
- Protect your sleep. You can do this by setting a regular bedtime and waking time. Your sleep space matters. Experts recommend maintaining a cool, quiet bedroom. Also, perimenopausal women should avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day to avoid sleep disruptions.
- Protect your health. In addition to eating a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, women should see their healthcare provider regularly. Routine screenings for cholesterol, blood sugar, and other physical conditions are vital during the years in which hormones are shifting.
- Protect your mind. Shifting hormones can affect cognition as well as mood. Eating a healthy diet is one way to protect brain function. Another is to learn something new. Studies show that learning a new game, skill, or hobby promotes the generation of new neuropathways in the brain, offsetting risks such as dementia. Mood balance may be addressed holistically, with meditation, good friendships, and time in nature. Some women address menopause-related mood issues with a prescription anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.
Our team has years of experience helping women navigate their transition into menopause. We can help you determine what strategies or clinical protocols, such as hormone therapy, may be ideal for your needs.
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If you're interested in learning more about menopause please contact us for a consultation at (941)745-5115 or fill out our contact us form. We will discuss your needs and concerns, and determine your best course of action.