The end of a woman’s reproductive years is marked by menopause. It is an entirely natural process involving hormonal and physiological changes. Knowing what to expect can help to ease the transition. Menopause affects everyone differently. This can be a difficult time for some, especially if hormonal changes cause symptoms like hot flashes and anxiety. Others see it as a liberating time when they no longer have to think about menstruation or birth control.
Here are ten important menopause facts to help you better understand the process.
1. Menopause does not occur suddenly.
Most women do not experience menopause suddenly. It is a process, not a specific point in time. Perimenopause begins when estrogen and progesterone levels begin to fall in a person’s 30s or 40s. Periods may become less regular until they cease altogether.
Menopause usually begins 12 months after the last menstrual period. According to the North American Menopause Society, this occurs between the ages of 40 and 58, with the average being 51 years. Hot flashes typically last 6 months to 2 years, but they can last 10 years or longer.
Menopause will begin almost immediately if a person has surgery to remove their ovaries. More information on surgical menopause can be found here. Menopause can be triggered by certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy. In some cases, this is only temporary, and menstruation resumes at some point after treatment is completed.
Menopause can also start at a younger age due to certain medical conditions.
How do you spot menopause? Find out more here.
2. Perimenopause can begin in your 30s.
Perimenopause is the period preceding menopause. It has a lifespan of 4-8 years. Estrogen and progesterone levels gradually decline during perimenopause.
Menstruation becomes less regular, and menopausal symptoms may appear.
These are some examples:
• Night sweats and hot flashes
• dry vaginal skin
Anyone concerned about symptoms should consult a doctor to ensure that they are not the result of a medical condition, such as an overactive thyroid.
A missed period in one’s forties could indicate either pregnancy or menopause.
3. The majority of people experience symptoms
Menopause is not a disease, but the hormonal changes it causes can cause symptoms.
These can range from mild to severe, causing discomfort and distress in some cases. Symptoms can be managed with treatment.
Typical symptoms include:
Hot flashes: Up to 75% of people experience sudden sensations of heat in the upper body.
Night sweats are hot flashes that happen at night.
• Sleeping difficulties: Night sweats, mood swings, and anxiety can all make it difficult to sleep.
S£x can be painful as a result of vaginal dryness.
• S£xual desire can decrease as hormone levels fall, but vaginal dryness can also make sex uncomfortable.
• Mood swings: Hormone fluctuations and environmental factors can all contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Hormonal changes can also play a role in osteoporosis. When a person has osteoporosis, their bone density decreases, and their bones become more brittle. Osteoporosis risk increases during and after menopause.
4. There is treatment available.
A doctor can prescribe medication if symptoms interfere with a person’s daily life.
Hormone therapy can help with a variety of issues by balancing hormones. It may not be appropriate for those who are at risk of blood clots, stroke, breast cancer, dementia, or gallbladder disease. A doctor can counsel the patient on their options.
Low doses of paroxetine, an antidepressant, may help treat hot flashes.
• Sexual well-being: Lubricants can assist reputable sources in resolving vaginal dryness. If lubricants and natural remedies are ineffective, a doctor may prescribe vaginal hormones in the form of a ring, cream, or tablet to be applied directly to the vagina.
• Preventing osteoporosis: A doctor may advise you to have regular bone density tests to monitor your bone strength. If the results show that the bones are weakening, the doctor may prescribe vitamin D supplements and make dietary and exercise recommendations to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
• Mood swings, anxiety, and depression: Hormone therapy or medication from a doctor may help. Counseling and relaxation techniques can aid in the management of stress and depression. Aromatherapy is beneficial to some people.
• Sleep issues: A variety of factors can contribute to sleep issues at this time. Getting enough exercise, limiting alcohol and coffee consumption, and following a healthy sleep routine can all help, according to reliable sources.
5. Menopause and sexuality
Some women worry that menopause will make them less attractive or prevent them from having a full sexual life. It can, however, give new meaning to sex as the need to think about menstruation and pregnancy fades.
Tips for keeping an active sexual life include:
Inquire with your doctor about lubricants and other ways to save money.
• dry vaginal skin
• To keep the body fit and healthy, exercise and eat a healthy diet.
• spending non-sexually intimate time together, such as a regular date night
• experimenting with new forms of arousal with a partner
A person’s partner may also be experiencing sexual insecurity. Open communication can assist both parties in overcoming this barrier. Joining a local club, going on a singles holiday, or using a dating site may be options for those who are single.
Get some advice on s£x after menopause here.
6. The body continues to produce hormones.
After menopause, the body continues to produce estrogen. Estrogen is essential for many bodily functions, and the body still requires some estrogen, albeit in smaller amounts.
The ovaries, however, will no longer produce estrogen. Instead, the adrenal glands produce androgens, which are converted into estrogen by aromatase, another hormone.
7. Weight gain during menopause
According to a 2017 article, most people gain weight around menopause, but those who were not overweight before menopause can usually manage this with lifestyle changes.
According to the Office for Women’s Health, many women gain an average of 5 pounds after menopause. Weight gain can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
• increased hunger as a result of changes in hunger-controlling hormones
• changes in metabolism as a result of hormonal factors
• consuming less healthily
• being inactive
other aspects concerning midwives
Anyone concerned about weight gain should consult a dietitian or doctor about appropriate options, which will most likely include dietary and exercise changes. Excess weight can help reduce the risk of a variety of health problems in the long run.
Obesity before or during menopause increases the likelihood of hot flashes and other symptoms. Losing weight can help a person deal with some of these issues.
Stress and menopause
Many women report difficulty concentrating and remembering things during menopause. This is referred to as “brain fog” by some. Stress is a major factor.
Stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
• the influence of physical changes
• pressures from home, work, and other sources
• age-related concerns
• Stress and thinking problems can be managed in the following ways:
• exercising regularly
• enrolling in a relaxation or yoga class
• keeping a diary on the kitchen wall that lists all upcoming events
• Finding a balance between responsibilities and personal interests whenever possible
• maintaining contact with friends and family
• sharing with other women going through menopause
If you are concerned about memory loss, anxiety, or depression, seek help.
9. It is still possible to become pregnant.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, but it is still possible to fall pregnant during or after this period.
Perimenopause can begin four to eight years before menopause. A person can become pregnant as long as menstruation continues. However, as a person approaches menopause, the chances of conceiving and carrying a full-term pregnancy decrease.
Because of advancements in reproductive technology, it is now possible to become pregnant after menopause. This is usually done with donated eggs or embryos that the person saved earlier in life.
Depending on the individual’s age and health status at the time of conception, there may be a higher risk of pregnancy loss, preterm birth, and health risks to the woman.
However, as one expert points out, younger women who have not yet reached menopause may experience similar symptoms.
Learn more about becoming pregnant during menopause here.
10. Menopause: A Fresh Start
Menopause has an impact on a woman’s health and well-being, but it is not a disease and does not indicate that her body is failing or that she is getting older.
When a woman is in her 30s or 40s, hormonal changes that precede menopause begins. In 2017, a 50-year-old female could expect to live to be at least 83 years old. Perimenopause occurs less than halfway through the average person’s life. People are beginning to see menopause as a new beginning rather than an end as life expectancy rises and attitudes toward aging shift.