Menopause is defined as the lack of menstruation for an entire year since a woman’s last period. It is a transition period for a woman’s new phase in life. Some find it liberating because menopause begins when the menstrual cycle finishes.
Menopause is a natural process that women’s bodies go through. However, it can cause some discomfort because of the hormonal changes. It’s not a health problem, and it doesn’t need medical treatment.
Read on to know more about menopause.
When does menopause start and end?
Menopause symptoms first appear about four years before a woman’s last period. In some cases, women start to experience symptoms up to a decade before the actual onset of menopause.
Genetics, ovary health, and other factors determine when a woman will begin menopause. About one percent of women experience premature menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency, which is when menopause begins before the age of 40. About five percent of women enter menopause between the ages of 40 to 45, which is referred to as early menopause.
There are also different stages before and after menopause. These are called perimenopause and postmenopause.
Before menopause, there is perimenopause first. Hormones begin to change during perimenopause. It can last for a few months to several years. Most women enter the perimenopause stage after their mid-40s. Other women don’t experience this phase, and just enter menopause suddenly.
During perimenopause, menstrual periods become irregular, and may become lighter or heavier than usual.
Menopause is having one full year of no periods. Clinical reasons, such as the removal of ovaries, may also stop periods.
Postmenopause refers to the following years after menopause. It can be difficult to determine when menopause finishes, and when postmenopause begins.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Women may experience menopause differently. Aside from menstruation changes, the symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause are similar. These symptoms often include changes in physical and mental health.
There are conditions that affect ovarian health, such as cancer and hysterectomy, which may also increase the severity and duration of the symptoms. Certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking, may also do the same.
The changes that may occur during perimenopause and menopause are:
- Lower fertility
- Irregular periods
- Heavier or lighter period flow than usual
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort
- Sleep problems (such as insomnia and anxiety)
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Urinary incontinence
- Low libido
- Sore and tender breasts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
- Thinning of hair
- Dry skin
What happens to my body when I reach menopause?
Women may be at increased risk for other health conditions after menopause. It does not directly cause these conditions, but the changes in hormones may play some role. Some of these conditions are:
- Vulvovaginal atrophy, or the thinning of vaginal walls
- Dyspareunia, or painful sex
- Osteoporosis, or weaker bones and reduced mass and strength
- Cardiovascular disease
- Breast cancer
What can I do to cope with the changes I’m experiencing?
Treatments aren’t needed for the symptoms experienced during menopause. However, women with symptoms severe enough to affect their daily lives may be given treatment such as hormone therapy, medications, and ointments. Talk to your doctor if you want to seek advice on getting treatment.
There are easy home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help a woman cope with the symptoms of menopause. These are:
- Keeping cool and comfortable
- Getting regular exercise
- Communicating needs and emotions
- Practicing relaxation techniques (such as yoga and meditation)
- Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoking
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Doing Kegel exercises
- Managing sleeping issues
- Seeking the help of a therapist for mental health
- Taking care of the skin
- Engaging in new hobbies
Menopause is a natural stage in women’s lives. It’s when they stop being fertile and stop having their periods. Even though it is not a medical problem, going to a doctor for advice may help women find ways to cope with the symptoms and changes they’re experiencing.
Women also experience other transitions during their middle age. Along with menopause, they may also go through changes in their relationships, work, or home life. It can be overwhelming especially when a lot of changes occur in a short period of time.
A lot of women still get to enjoy active, healthy lives throughout menopause and the decades after. If you’re fresh into midlife and feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to seek help from doctors, therapists, friends, and family. It’s a new chapter in your life, so make it count.