Menopause: What To Expect When You Stop Expecting What is menopause? More than likely, you’ve already heard of menopause, especially if you are female. Menopause is the 12- month period after the end of your final menstrual period. It is the end of the menstrual cycle. After menopause, a woman can no longer get pregnant. The process of menopause is completely natural. While no longer fertile, women are still healthy post- menopause. Aging changes everyone’s bodies. Women simply have certain health issues specific to them. What is perimenopause? Menopause does not happen all at once, except in cases of hysterectomies. Perimenopause is the period of time winding down the menstrual cycle. This period of time can vary wildly between individuals. In some cases, it may begin 8 to 10 years prior to menopause! In other cases, however, women go through perimenopause in a few months. The best way to gauge what is normal for you is to talk to your family members. Everyone is an individual but the older women in your family will have a unique insight into what you can expect. Genetics make a difference! Your friends may have helpful tips and tricks but relatives know what experiences your genes may predispose you to experiencing. During perimenopause, your ovaries will produce less and less estrogen until they finally stop releasing eggs. That is when perimenopause changes into menopause. What is postmenopause? After a woman has not experienced her period for a year, she is considered postmenopausal. There are positives and negatives to being postmenopausal. The symptoms suffered during menopause will lessen and a woman can no longer get pregnant, which some consider a relief. However, the lower levels of estrogen can result in some health issues for women. Osteoporosis and heart disease are both more likely for woman who have completed menopause. What are the symptoms of menopause? For most women, the major symptoms of menopause are well-known. They include, but are not limited to: 1.Irregular periods 2.Night sweats 3.Hot flashes 4.Mood change 5.Weight gain
6.Slowed metabolism 7.Thinning hair 8.Dry skin 9.Vaginal dryness Not everyone will experience every symptom. It is similar to menstruation in that, depending on your body, the instance and severity of each symptom will vary. Some women will menstruate every month until perimenopause completes; however, this is rare. It’s far more common for periods to occur sporadically throughout perimenopause. Because of this, it is still possible to get pregnant during perimenopause. Who experiences menopause? Everyone who menstruates will eventually go through menopause. While genetics play a large role in determining what is “natural” for your body, the average age for experiencing menopause is 51. If you are under the age of 40 and start going through menopause, this is referred to as premature menopause. Premature menopause may occur for a number of reasons. The most obvious of which is if a woman has her ovaries removed in a bilateral oophorectomy. The sudden removal of ovaries will result in the immediate loss of the hormones they were producing. Due to the sudden nature of this hormonal change, the symptoms can be severe. It is especially important to keep a doctor up to date on your symptoms if you go through surgical menopause, as opposed to natural menopause. Premature menopause may also be caused by chromosome defects, autoimmune diseases, and chemotherapy. Women who are receiving radiation treatment for ovarian cancer may stop their periods and experience fertility issues. The damaged caused to the ovaries by chemotherapy or radiation shouldn’t be underestimated so, prior to beginning those treatments, make sure to speak to your oncologist about your women’s health concerns. Is hormone replacement therapy unhealthy? Once, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was standard. However, that is no longer the case. Many women have heard that hormone replacement therapy is dangerous for their health. Unfortunately, there is not a simple yes-or-no answer. Every body is different. Not every woman needs hormone replacement therapy. Some research suggests that, if taken early in postmenopause, estrogen can decrease the risk of heart disease. There are some risks, of course. Estrogen, when not balanced with progesterone or progestrin can cause growth in the lining of the uterus, increasing a woman’s risk of uterine cancer. Other risks include heart disease, stroke, blood clot and breast cancer. However, women who experience early menopause and do not take hormone replacement therapy are at risk for anxiety, depression, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, parkinsonism, and decreased lifespan.
You should consider hormone replacement therapy if you are healthy and experience moderate to severe menopause symptom or have experienced bone loss. Do I need a doctor? While menopause is a natural process, that doesn’t mean it should go unmonitored. As your body changes, you need to make adjustments for your new hormonal reality. Additionally, your healthcare provider can help ease your symptoms to help menopause hit you a little less hard. For some women, menopause isn’t a big deal but, for others, it can be rough. Do not hesitate to ask for help! Places like the Institute for Women’s Health in San Antonio, Texas can help.