What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Menopause
Estrogen is used by many parts of a womanâs body. As levels of estrogen decrease, you could have various symptoms. Many women experience mild symptoms that can be treated by lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine or carrying a portable fan. Some women donât require any treatment at all, but for others, symptoms can be more severe. The severity of symptoms varies greatly around the world and by race and ethnicity.
Here are the most common changes you might notice at midlife. Some may be part of aging rather than directly related to menopause.
Change in your period. This might be what you notice first. Your periods may no longer be regular. They may be shorter or last longer. You might bleed more or less than usual. These are all normal changes, but to make sure there isnât a problem, see your doctor if:
- Your periods happen very close together.
- You have heavy bleeding.
- Your periods last more than a week.
- Your periods resume after no bleeding for more than a year.
Bladder control. A loss of bladder control is called incontinence. You may have a sudden urge to urinate, or urine may leak during exercise, sneezing, or laughing. The first step in treating incontinence is to see a doctor. Bladder infections also can occur in midlife.
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As you head toward the big change, keep in mind that diaper changes arent quite out of the picture just yet. You can still get pregnant during perimenopause defined as the years leading up to your final period.
This menopausal transition brings unpredictable ovulation cycles as estrogen and progesterone hormone levels go up and down. During these years of yo-yoing hormone levels, your ovaries continue to release eggs for fertilization. Translation: You can still become pregnant.
Premier Health Ob/Gyn physician J. Scott Bembry, MD, says hes seen a handful of patients in his own practice whove become unintentionally pregnant in their late 40s.
Myth: If Youre In Your 40s And You Havent Gone Through Menopause Fertility Treatments Are A Good Backup Plan If You Cant Get Pregnant Naturally
Fact: Fertility begins to gradually decline in your 30s, often well before perimenopause. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine , most women become unable to have a successful pregnancy in their mid-40s this includes through natural conception and with fertility treatments such as IVF.7 Both the quality and quantity of eggs gradually decline with time. ASRM notes that by age 40, a womans chance of getting pregnant is less than 5% per cycle, naturally or with the help of fertility treatments.7
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The Risk Of Pregnancy
The decline of hormones means increasingly irregular ovulation so it is difficult for a woman to know how long she continues to be fertile. Many forget when their last period occurred six months ago? Perhaps eight? Although it is tempting to consider yourself no longer fertile during the peri-menopause, remember that it is usually after 12 months without a period that women are considered to be infertile.
No matter how irregular your periods may have become, this does not entirely rule out your chances of conceiving it is possible to have a natural conception until the mid-fifties. This may be both positive and negative.
If you do not want to run the risk of becoming pregnant while going through the peri-menopause, it is recommended that you continue using contraception for two years after your last period.
Generally speaking, however, it is harder for older women to conceive and the risks associated with pregnancy in older women are higher. This is because a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. As these eggs age, they become more likely to have chromosomal abnormalities.
In addition, an older womans body is not as adaptable to pregnancy as a younger womans, and factors such as high blood pressure all contribute their own risks to the pregnancy.
What Are The Symptoms Of Menopause
You may be transitioning into menopause if you begin experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes .
- Night sweats and/or cold flashes.
These symptoms can be a sign that the ovaries are producing less estrogen or a sign of increased fluctuations in hormone levels. Not all people get all of these symptoms. However, those affected with new symptoms of racing heart, urinary changes, headaches or other new medical problems should make sure there is no other cause for these symptoms.
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Can A Woman Get Pregnant After Menopause
Night sweats, hot flashes, mood, skin and body changes, spotting, irregular menstrual periods or no menstrual periodsis it menopause or perimenopause, pregnancy, or something else? When our bodies are showing signs of change or were having abnormal symptoms of things we cant fully explain, we start making guesses as to what may be happening.
Perimenopausal changes can start in your late 30s and 40s, so if youre starting to experience changes in your body, it could mean your body is preparing for menopause. But if youre nearing or in your 40s and wondering if you can still get pregnant, the simple answer is yes, but the chances are slim.
If youve already hit menopause and are wondering if you can still get pregnant, the simple answer is that its highly unlikely, but not impossible. All of these answers relate to fertility in women, which is very different from fertility in men. Although men can produce viable sperm into their 60s, women typically dont have successful pregnancies past their mid-40s.
Do Men Go Through Menopause
Andropause, or male menopause, is a term given to describe decreasing testosterone levels in men. Testosterone production in men declines much more gradually than estrogen production in women at about 1% per year. Healthcare providers often debate calling this slow decline in testosterone menopause since its not as drastic of a hormone shift and doesn’t carry the same intensity of side effects as menopause in women. Some men will not even notice the change because it happens over many years or decades. Other names for the male version of menopause are age-related low testosterone, male hypogonadism or androgen deficiency.
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Cholesterol Changes And Increased Risk Of Heart Disease
A loss of estrogen can cause an increase in LDL cholesterol, sometimes referred to as bad cholesterol. It can also lead to a decrease in HDL, or good cholesterol. This increases your risk of heart disease.
increased six-foldTrusted Source for women ages 35-44, on average. Birth rates have also increased for women over 45. Additionally, birth rates in this age range have increased by 5 percent in 2015. At the same time, many women start to experience menopause symptoms between 45 and 55 years old. The average age for perimenopause is 51, and an estimated 6,000 women in the United States reach menopause every day.
If youre still having menstrual periods, its possible to become pregnant.
Do You Still Ovulate During Perimenopause
While the level of estrogen in your body may rise and fall unevenly during perimenopause, estrogen is gradually on the decline and with that comes a decline in ovulation. As changes happen to your menstrual cycle, you may begin having cycles where an egg isnt released or ovulation doesnt occur.
That doesnt mean that ovulation has stopped altogether. Irregular periods may be the result of not ovulating every month, but your body is still able to ovulate, the schedule just might be more erratic.
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Are There Any Other Emotional Changes That Can Happen During Menopause
Menopause can cause a variety of emotional changes, including:
- A loss of energy and insomnia.
- A lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating.
- Anxiety, depression, mood changes and tension.
- Aggressiveness and irritability.
All of these emotional changes can happen outside of menopause. You have probably experienced some of them throughout your life. Managing emotional changes during menopause can be difficult, but it is possible. Your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe a medication to help you . It may also help to just know that there is a name to the feelings you are experiencing. Support groups and counseling are useful tools when dealing with these emotional changes during menopause.
There Are Some Steps You Can Take To Ease The Pregnancy Journey Before Perimenopause
If you or someone you know is interested in trying to get pregnant later in life but before reaching perimenopause, there are some general guidelines that could help ease the transition.
- Make an appointment before you conceive. Meet with your health care practitioner to discuss your overall health. They might have some suggestions for lifestyle changes that could have a positive effect on improving your chances of a healthy pregnancy.1
- Explore prenatal testing options.There are DNA screenings available to see if your developing baby is at risk. Talk to your doctor about these options.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco. These substances are definitely off-limits during pregnancy, but given their stress on the body in general, it cant hurt to limit your exposure to them while trying to get pregnant as well.
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Do You Need Contraceptives During Perimenopause
Unless you are absolutely sure you are in full menopause, getting pregnant is still a possibility and therefore contraceptives are essential. Whether you are using birth control or other methods of contraception, if you want to be sure you still need to use it. Some studies have found that over 75% of pregnancies in women over 40 are unplanned, so its important to assume you are fertile, unless proven otherwise.
How Will Menopause Affect Me
Symptoms of menopause may begin suddenly and be very noticeable, or they may be very mild at first. Symptoms may happen most of the time once they begin, or they may happen only once in a while. Some women notice changes in many areas. Some menopausal symptoms, such as moodiness, are similar to symptoms of premenstrual syndrome . Others may be new to you. For example:
- Your menstrual periods may not come as regularly as before. They also might last longer or be shorter. You might skip some months. Periods might stop for a few months and then start up again.
- Your periods might be heavier or lighter than before.
- You might have hot flashes and problems sleeping.
- You might experience mood swings or be irritable.
- You might experience vaginal dryness. Sex may be uncomfortable or painful.
- You may have less interest in sex. It may take longer for you to get aroused.
Other possible changes are not as noticeable. For example, you might begin to lose bone density because you have less estrogen. This can lead to osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and break easily. Changing estrogen levels can also raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Talk to your doctor about possible treatment for your menopause symptoms if they bother you.
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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, its 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:
It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider while you are going through menopause to craft a treatment plan that works for you. Every person is different and has unique needs.
When To Take A Pregnancy Test During Menopause
Many symptoms of menopause are similar to those of pregnancy. If you get pregnant, you wont have a period, but you may experience some light spotting that could be mistaken for a period.
You could experience other symptoms like mood swings, problems sleeping, fatigue and headaches, which can also happen in the perimenopause and menopause. When you are pregnant you may also feel sick or vomit , pee more often and have tender breasts. And in perimenopause and menopause its also common to report bladder changes .
If youre sexually active and experience any of these symptoms, its important to do a pregnancy test. This can be done at home or by your doctor.
Home pregnancy tests are available from the pharmacy and measure the levels of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin in your pee. Its present in higher levels if youre pregnant. A positive test result is almost certainly correct. Negative test results can be less reliable.
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What Are My Chances Of Conceiving
Women with POI do not ovulate every month. This makes it difficult to get pregnant.
But studies have shown that a small percentage of women with idiopathic premature ovarian failure do sometimes ovulate and become pregnant.
If you have POI and are having difficulty getting pregnant you may be able to receive eggs from a donor. Treatment with donor eggs is carried out using In vitro fertilisation .
If you are diagnosed with POI you can ask your GP to refer you to a fertility specialist.
Dealing With Early Menopause
What is early menopause?
As women age, their bodies produce less estrogen and progesterone, the main hormones involved in female reproduction. When these hormones reach a low enough level, a woman will permanently stop having a menstrual cycle.
Menopause officially begins 12 months after a womans last period. Most women begin menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, with an average age of 51 in the United States. But for some women, menopause comes early.
If youre between the ages of 35 and 45 and have missed your period for three months or more, you may be going through menopause earlier than normal. Read on to learn why this happens and what treatments are available.
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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. Hot flashes arent the same for everyone and theres no definitive reason that they happen. Aside from the heat, hot flashes can also come with:
- A red, flushed face.
- A chilled feeling after the heat.
Hot flashes not only feel different for each person, but they also can last for various amounts of time. Some people only have hot flashes for a short period of time during menopause. Others can have some kind of hot flash for the rest of their life. Typically, hot flashes are less severe as time goes on. The intensity, frequency and duration of hot flashes differ for each individual.
Perimenopause And Your Fertility: The Facts
Then, there is the additional risk of being pregnant at an older age to take into account. Being older may mean that youve accrued medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, fibroids or cervical disease, that could render any pregnancy more complicated. Risks such as pre eclampsia, preterm labour, placental problems and growth restriction of the baby can all be more common.
However, looking after yourself and ensuring that your body is as capable as possible of supporting a healthy pregnancy, as well as producing the best possible quality of eggs, is really important, as both can improve the chance of conception, and lead to a healthier baby. There is no doubt that using donor eggs at this stage leads to the best chance of success of up to around 40%. However, for many women, this is not an easy decision and can be complicated if she already has biological children of her own.
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Your Doctor Can Diagnose Menopause Even If Youre Using Mirena
You usually dont need tests to diagnose menopause. When your period stops for a full 12 months, youre in it.
But since the IUD stops your periods, you need a backup plan. Your doctor can do a blood test to check levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogen. FSH helps regulate your menstrual cycle and egg production.
During menopause, FSH levels rise while estrogen levels drop. A blood test can look for these level changes.
Your FSH levels can rise and fall throughout your cycle, so your doctor might need to take a couple of blood tests over time. Theyll also look for symptoms like hot flashes to determine whether youre in menopause.
Mirena can lighten your monthly bleeding, but it doesnt relieve other menopause symptoms. For that, you might turn to hormone replacement therapy .
HRT pills, patches, and injections help with menopause symptoms like:
HRT comes in two forms:
- estrogen-only therapy for women whove had a hysterectomy
- estrogen plus progesterone for women who have a uterus
HRT isnt perfect. Its been linked to increased risk of stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer, and more. Thats why experts recommend taking the lowest effective dose for the shortest length of time needed to relieve your symptoms.
Your doctor can help you decide whether HRT is the best option for you.
What To Expect When Youre Expecting Perimenopause
There are commercials about it, ads in magazines about it, even skits on Saturday Night Live about it. We hear about menopause more often than wed like, especially if were fast approaching it. But what we dont often learn about is perimenopause, the period preceding menopause that lasts four years, on average.
Dr. Catherine Sundsmo, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy, recently took some time to explain perimenopause and all that comes with it. Here are her top five tips on what to expect when youre expecting perimenopause:
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