What do you know about Menopause

Menopause is a point in time when a person has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. Menopause is a natural part of ageing

What do you know about Menopause

What do you know about Menopause

Menopause - Symptoms, Signs, Age, How Long It Last, When It Starts

Overview

Menopause is a point in time when a person has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. Menopause is a natural part of ageing and marks the end of your reproductive years. On average, menopause happens at age 51.

The time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause. This is when a lot of women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB) start to transition to menopause. They may notice changes in their menstrual cycles or have symptoms like hot flashes.

The three stages of menopause are as follows:

 Menopause: Menopause is the point when you no longer have menstrual periods. At this stage, your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most estrogen. A healthcare provider diagnoses menopause when you've gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

Perimenopause or "menopause transition": Perimenopause can begin eight to 10 years before menopause when your ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. It usually starts when you're in your 40s. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when your ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many people may experience menopause symptoms. But you're still having menstrual cycles during this time and can get pregnant.

Postmenopause: This is the name given to the time after you haven't had a period for an entire year (or the rest of your life after menopause). During this stage, menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, may get better. However, some people continue to experience menopausal symptoms for a decade or longer after the menopause transition. As a result of a lower estrogen level, people in the postmenopausal phase are at an increased risk for several health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

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Normal age for menopause

The average age of menopause in the United States is approximately 51 years old. However, the transition to menopause usually begins in your mid-40s.

signs and symptoms of menopause

You may be transitioning into menopause if you begin experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Joint and muscle aches and pains.
  • Changes in libido (sex drive).
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory lapses (often temporary).
  • Dry skin, dry eyes or dry mouth.
  • Breast tenderness.
  • Worsening of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Urinary urgency (a pressing need to pee more frequently).
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Hot flashes are vasomotor symptoms (a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over your body).
  • Night sweats and cold flashes.
  • Vaginal dryness that causes discomfort during sex.
  • Weight gain.
  • Hair loss or thinning.
  • Emotional changes (irritability, mood swings or mild depression).

Changes in your hormone levels cause these symptoms. Some people may have intense symptoms of menopause, while others have mild symptoms. Not everyone will have the same symptoms as they transition to menopause.

Contact a healthcare provider if you're unsure if your symptoms are related to menopause or another health condition.

How long do you have symptoms of menopause?

You can have symptoms of menopause for up to 10 years. However, most people experience symptoms of menopause for less than five years.

Why does menopause happen?

When menopause happens independently (natural menopause), it's a normal part of ageing. Menopause is defined as a complete year without menstrual bleeding in the absence of any surgery or medical condition that may cause bleeding to stop, such as hormonal birth control, radiation therapy or surgical removal of your ovaries.

As you age, your reproductive cycle begins to slow down and prepares to stop. This cycle has been continuously functioning since puberty. As menopause nears, your ovaries make less of a hormone called estrogen. When this decrease occurs, your menstrual cycle (period) changes. It can become irregular and then stop.

Physical changes can also happen as your body adapts to different levels of hormones. The symptoms you experience during each stage of menopause (perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause) are all part of your body's adjustment to these changes.

What are hot flashes, and how long will I have them?

Hot flashes are one of the most frequent symptoms of menopause. It's a brief sensation of heat. Aside from the heat, hot flashes can also come with:

  • A red, flushed face.
  • Sweating.
  • A chilled feeling after the heat.

The intensity, frequency and duration of hot flashes differ for each individual. Typically, hot flashes are less severe as time goes on.

Do I know if I'm in menopause?

You'll know you've reached menopause when you've gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any vaginal bleeding after menopause. Vaginal bleeding after menopause could be a sign of a more severe health issue.

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Can menopause be treated?

Menopause is a natural process that your body goes through. In some cases, you may not need any treatment for menopause. When discussing treatment for menopause with your provider, it's about treating the symptoms of menopause that disrupt your life. There are many different types of treatments for the symptoms of menopause. The main types of treatment for menopause are:

  • Hormone therapy.
  • Nonhormonal treatments.

It's important to talk to your healthcare provider while you're going through menopause to craft a treatment plan that works for you. Every person is different and has unique needs.

Diet

Sometimes, changing your diet can help relieve menopause symptoms. Limiting the caffeine you consume daily and cutting back on spicy foods can make your hot flashes less severe. You can also add foods that contain plant estrogen to your diet. Plant estrogen (isoflavones) isn't a replacement for the estrogen your body makes before menopause. Foods to try include:

  • Soybeans.
  • Chickpeas.
  • Lentils.
  • Flaxseed.
  • Grains.
  • Beans.
  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.

Avoiding triggers to hot flashes

Certain things in your daily life could be triggers for hot flashes. To help relieve your symptoms, try to identify and work around these triggers. This could include keeping your bedroom cool at night, wearing layers of clothing or quitting smoking. Weight loss can also help with hot flashes.

Exercising

Working out can be difficult if you're dealing with hot flashes, but exercising can help relieve several other symptoms of menopause. Exercise can help you sleep through the night and is recommended if you have insomnia. Calm, tranquil exercises like yoga can also help with your mood and relieve any fears or anxiety you may be feeling.

Joining support groups

Talking to other people who are also going through menopause can be a great relief for many. Joining a support group can give you an outlet for the many emotions running through your head and help you answer questions you may not even know you have.

Prescription medications

Prescription medications such as estrogen therapy (estrogen in a cream, gel or pill), birth control pills and antidepressants (SSRIs and SNRIs) can help manage symptoms of menopause, like mood swings and hot flashes. Prescription vaginal creams can help relieve vaginal dryness. A seizure medication called gabapentin has been shown to alleviate hot flashes. Speak with your healthcare provider to see if nonhormonal medications could work for managing your symptoms.

Can menopause affect my sex life?

After menopause, your body has less estrogen. This significant change in your hormonal balance can affect your sex life. Many people experiencing menopause may notice that they're not as easily aroused as before. Sometimes, people also may be less sensitive to touch and other physical contact than before menopause.

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These feelings, coupled with the other emotional changes you may be experiencing, can all lead to a decreased interest in sex. Remember that your body is going through a lot of changes during menopause. Some of the other factors that can play a role in a decreased sex drive include:

  • I am having bladder control problems.
  • I was having trouble sleeping through the night.
  • We are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression.
  • She is coping with other medical conditions and medications.

These factors can disrupt your life and even cause tension in your relationship(s). In addition to these changes, the lower levels of estrogen in your body can cause a decrease in the blood supply to your vagina. This can cause dryness. When you don't have the right amount of lubrication in your vagina, it can lead to painful intercourse.

Don't be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider about any decreases you're experiencing in your sex drive. Your provider will discuss options to help you feel better. For example, you can treat vaginal dryness with over-the-counter (OTC), water-soluble or silicone lubricants. Your healthcare provider can also prescribe estrogen or non-estrogen hormones to treat the vaginal tissue. They can prescribe this in a low-dose cream, pill or vaginal ring.