Menopause is a transitional period where a woman progresses from her childbearing years into the next phase of her life. The symptoms which accompany this shift occur in overlapping stages.
As you approach middle-age, it is important you remain aware of menopause signs and symptoms.
Premenopause is broadly defined as the whole of a woman's life before the menopause. During this time your periods occur regularly, (though almost all women experience variations at some point in their lives). You're able to bear children, and sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone retain a relatively stable balance. Women typically begin to transition from this stage in their early to mid – 40's. During this period it is normal to experience the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
These symptoms usually occur due to the hormonal fluctuations tied to a woman's monthly menstrual cycle. Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in the run-up to their period.
Perimenopause is a time when ovulation and fertility slows down. Hormonal levels decline and in consequence it's common to experience several unpleasant side effects. The most common perimenopausal symptoms include:
- Mood swings. A combination of fluctuating hormones and the unpleasant symptoms they cause can result in mood swings.
- Hot flashes. One of the most common symptoms of the menopause transition is the sensation of sudden heat. Caused by the erratic fluctuation of hormones and your bodies attempts to contend with them.
- Night sweats. A consequence of hot flashes.
- Vaginal dryness - A reduction in estrogen leads to a reduction in natural vaginal lubricant.
- Loss of libido. The physical effects of menopause combined with a reduction in hormones can lower sex drive and motivation.
Knowing exactly when you have entered the perimenopause period is difficult. One of the most common warning signs, however, is irregular periods. Due to the fluctuation of hormones during Perimenopause, woman often find their symptoms to be the most intense around this time.
Once a woman has gone a year without receiving a period, they have officially entered menopause. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms experienced during perimenopause can linger during menopause. Due to reduced hormone production you can expect to receive:
- Hot flashes, the experience of heat followed by chills will be similar to the perimenopause experience.
- Night sweats, in consequence of hot flashes, women might find themselves waking with night sweats for up to ten years after their final period.
- Loss of libido, the experience of a reduced libido during menopause is similar to the experience during perimenopause.
The years following menopause - postmenopause - are characterized by a reduction in symptoms as the bodies hormone levels stabilize. It's important to note however, that during this time the body produces less estrogen and in consequence women postmenopause are at a higher risk of contracting health conditions including: breast cancer, urinary tract infections, osteoporosis, and insomnia.
Risks associated with postmenopause
- Osteoporosis. Estrogen is vital to bone growth and maintenance. Therefore when a woman stops producing as much of it her bones become at risk of turning brittle.
- Coronoary artery disease, it is described as the narrowing of arteries surrounding the heart due to excessive levels of cholestoral. Woman postmenopause are at a higher risk to rising cholesterol levels brought about through menopause.
- Endometrial cancer is an estrogen related illness. The more menstrual cycles a woman experiences during her lifetime the more likely she is to develop endometrial cancer. Those who maintain a lower body mass index are less likely to contract the illness.
Woman can reduce the level of risk they are exposed to in postmenopause by maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise and avoiding cigarette smoke.
Knowing Your Body
Menopause is a difficult transition, but understanding what hormonal changes are occurring is the first step to finding relief. Click on the following link to discover more treatments for menopause
- Harvard Medical School. (2015). Menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats can last for years. (2015). Retrieved July 9, 2015. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/menopause-related-hot-flashes-night-sweats-can-last-years-201502237745
- Postmenopausal Health Concerns. (n.d.). Retrieved July 9, 2015. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause-time-change/postmenopausal-health-concerns
- Menopause. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2015. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics/