Postmenopause is the final stage of a woman's reproductive life. Menopause is the process during which a woman gradually stops menstruating, considered to be official after 12 consecutive months of missed periods. After this moment, a woman has entered the postmenopausal phase.
During the menopausal transition, a woman may experience a number of symptoms, some of which may continue after menopause. Read on to learn more about the symptoms that may continue into postmenopause and when it is appropriate to consult a doctor.
Irregular periods are one of the most common symptoms that occur during menopause. In the time leading up to menopause, it is likely that your period will change in regularity, length, and amount of bleeding. However, menopause is technically considered to be 12 months after a your last period, so irregular periods should not be a symptom of postmenopause.
If you experience an irregular period 12 months after your last period, it is recommended to consult a doctor. After menopause has occurred, vaginal bleeding could signify abnormal cell development in the uterus. It is therefore very important to be examined if you are among the 10% of women who experience postmenopausal bleeding.
Unfortunately, hot flashes are a symptom of menopause that may continue into postmenopause, so they do not necessarily warrant medical concern. Hot flashes are a result of the fluctuations of hormones in the body. During postmenopause, low hormone levels can still provoke hot flashes. However, if your postmenopausal hot flashes are severe and are causing distress, your physician can help you find treatment options.
Mood swings are defined as dramatic and sudden changes in mood that have no apparent logical basis. They can occur at any time and do not always have a trigger. Shifts in hormone levels also account for menopausal mood swings: they are associated with changes in the level of estrogen in the body.
Mood swings should not continue into postmenopause, but in some cases, it is possible. If they do, and they are having a detrimental effect on your life and your relationships, you may wish to consider seeking medical help.
The above provides a guideline regarding when it might be appropriate to consult a doctor during postmenopause. If any prolonged menopause symptoms are causing you discomfort or distress, it is advisable to seek medical help. For more information on postmenopause, symptoms, and treatments, follow the links below.
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Newell, S. (2012). Postmenopausal bleeding should be referred urgently. Practitioner, 256(1749), 13-15, 2. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22662514
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Menopause and menopause treatments fact sheet. Retrieved February 9, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menopause-treatment.html