Hormone Levels Fluctuate Leading To Menopause
As you approach menopause, the production of female hormones by the ovaries starts to slow down. Hormone levels tend to fluctuate, and you may notice changes in your menstrual cycle such as:
- period cycles may become longer, shorter or totally irregular
- bleeding may become lighter
- bleeding may become unpredictable and heavy .
Eventually, your hormone levels will fall to a point where your ovaries stop releasing eggs, your periods stop and menopause is reached.Although fertility after the age of 45 is low, you still need to use contraception to prevent pregnancy. Its recommended to continue contraception until you have had one year without a natural period if youre over 50 years old, or two years without a natural period if youre under 50.
What Is Menopause Its A Moment In Time
Menopause is a specific point in time. Menopause occurs when periods stop and youve gone 12 consecutive months since having your last period. Once youve hit that moment, you enter post-menopause.
Reaching menopause means that youre no longer able to bear children. Every woman except for those whove had their ovaries removed before puberty will go through menopause.
When does menopause start?
The average menopause age is around 51. But some women experience menopause in their 40s with a small percentage experiencing menopause even younger. Some women may not reach menopause until their 60s.
Theres no way to know your exact menopause age until it happens, but genetics seem to play a strong role. You may get a general idea of when to expect menopause based on when your family members went through it, particularly your mother.
Genetics arent the only thing that can impact when menopause starts. Medical factors can also influence menopause timing. When the ovaries are removed, symptoms will begin to show immediately.
Certain medical conditions like autoimmune diseases have also been associated with early menopause. Women whove undergone treatments like radiation therapy or chemotherapy are also more likely to show symptoms earlier.
What Is Hormone Therapy
During menopause, your body goes through major hormonal changes, decreasing the amount of hormones it makes particularly estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries. When your ovaries no longer make enough estrogen and progesterone, hormone therapy can be used as a supplement. Hormone therapy boosts your hormone levels and can help relieve some symptoms of menopause. Its also used as a preventative measure for osteoporosis.
There are two main types of hormone therapy:
- Estrogen therapy : In this treatment, estrogen is taken alone. Its typically prescribed in a low dose and can be taken as a pill or patch. ET can also be given to you as a cream, vaginal ring, gel or spray. This type of treatment is used after a hysterectomy. Estrogen alone cant be used if a woman still has a uterus.
- Estrogen Progesterone/Progestin Hormone Therapy : This treatment is also called combination therapy because it uses doses of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is available in its natural form, or also as a progestin . This type of hormone therapy is used if you still have your uterus.
Hormone therapy can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause, including:
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness.
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Can Menopause Cause Facial Hair Growth
Yes, increased facial hair growth can be a change related to menopause. The hormonal change your body goes through during menopause can result in several physical changes to your body, including more facial hair than you may have had in the past. If facial hair becomes a problem for you, waxing or using other hair removers may be options. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options to make sure you dont pick a product that could harm your skin.
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 fluctuation in hormone levels. Not all women get all of these symptoms. However, women affected with new symptoms of racing heart, urinary changes, headaches, or other new medical problems should see a doctor to make sure there is no other cause for these symptoms.
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Factors That Influence Menopause Duration And Symptoms
Like puberty and pregnancy, perimenopause begins and ends at different times for each woman. There are so many factors influencing the timing and experience of perimenopause that every woman will write her own story. Genetics, lifestyle, diet, stress, general health, and cultural perspective are all elements of when and how dramatically you will experience menopause-related symptoms.
That being said, the vast majority of women will experience their “menopause” in a two- to 10-year window of time, probably from their mid-forties to their mid-fifties.
But even if you begin much earlier or end later, you may still be having your own version of a healthy menopause. And whether you never feel a single hot flash, or continue to have them into your late 60s, it can be normal for you.
When Does Menopause Start
Though menopause is defined as starting one year after the end of a person last period, they may begin experiencing symptoms earlier.
According to the North American Menopause Society, the average age for a woman to reach menopause in the United States is 51 years. However, this age range varies. Menopause may happen early when a woman is in her forties or later when she is in her late 50s.
The onset of menopause can also follow surgery that reduces ovarian function or hormones, such as a hysterectomy, where a surgeon removes the uterus, or surgery or other treatments for cancer. In these circumstances, symptoms may begin rapidly as an adverse effect of these procedures.
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How Can You Alleviate Perimenopausal Symptoms
Some women deal with the symptoms of perimenopause, and some women seek treatment for specific health concerns. Women with heavy bleeding, periods that last longer than seven days, spotting between periods or cycles that are less than 21 days should contact a doctor.
Typically, perimenopause is a gradual transition, and no particular test indicates what is happening to the body. Hormone therapy, vaginal estrogen treatments and antidepressants can help treat perimenopausal symptoms.
Start by identifying what’s bothering you most and then working with your doctor to address it. There are steps you can take to feel better. Lifestyle changes that can make a big impact in easing perimenopausal symptoms and improving your overall health include:
Remedies For Vaginal Dryness
- Topical HRT – there are several creams and pessaries containing oestrogen that you can apply from once a day to once a week to relieve symptoms. Doctors recommend you tail them off every few months to check if you still need them. There is also a vaginal ‘ring’ which your doctor can fit, which releases small amounts of oestrogen.
- Replens® – this is a non-hormonal vaginal moisturising cream which you apply every three days. It works much better than water-based gels like K-YJelly® and is available from your pharmacist as well as on prescription.
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Is Heart Disease Linked To Menopause
Conditions related to your heart may arise during menopause, such as dizziness or cardiac palpitations. Decreased estrogen levels can prevent your body from retaining flexible arteries. This can impact blood flow.
Watching your weight, eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising, and not smoking can reduce your chances of developing heart conditions.
Should I Continue Using Birth Control During The Transition To Menopause
Yes. You can still get pregnant during perimenopause, the transition to menopause, even if you miss your period for a month or a few months. During perimenopause you may still ovulate, or release an egg, on some months.
But it is impossible to know for sure when you will ovulate. If you dont want to get pregnant, you should continue to use birth control until one full year after your last period. Talk to your doctor about your birth control needs. Learn more about different .
You cant get pregnant after menopause, but anyone who has sex can get . If you are not in a monogamous relationship in which you and your partner have sex with each other and no one else, protect yourself by using a male condom or correctly every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. After menopause you may be more likely to get an STI from sex without a condom. Vaginal dryness or irritation is more common after menopause and can cause small cuts or tears during sex, exposing you to STIs.
Confirming That The Menopause Has Taken Place
Its not always easy to confirm that the menopause has actually happened. Of course, irregular periods and the occasional hot flush are a sign that changes are taking place, but identifying the time of the actual menopause is not so simple, especially if you are taking the Pill or have started Hormone Replacement Therapy for the relief of peri-menopausal symptoms.
The question may seem irrelevant, but it is helpful to know the date of your last period, not only so that you can respond to symptoms in the most appropriate way, but also for contraceptive purposes. A truly menopausal woman will be infertile and will have no need of contraception. However, most doctors advise menopausal women under 50 to continue with their contraception for two years after their last period and for one year if they are over 50.
Most doctors will evaluate a womans menopausal status according to her symptoms , pattern of periods, and medical record. It is possible to take a blood test to measure levels of a reproductive hormone known as FSH. However, while elevated FSH levels may be a sign of the menopause, the test is not always accurate and results cant be guaranteed. Measurement of FSH is not required to diagnose perimenopause or menopause in women aged over 45 years.
This is also the case in those rare instances of premature ovarian Insufficiency, when the hormonal system fails at an early age and the ovaries lose their normal function.
When Do I Know That Im Having A Hot Flash
During a hot flash, youll likely feel your body temperature rise. Hot flashes affect the top half of your body, and your skin may even turn red in color or become blotchy. This rush of heat could lead to sweating, heart palpitations, and feelings of dizziness. After the hot flash, you may feel cold.
Hot flashes may come on daily or even multiple times a day. You may experience them over the course of a year or even several years.
Avoiding triggers may reduce the number of hot flashes you experience. These can include:
- consuming alcohol or caffeine
Being overweight and smoking may also make hot flashes worse.
A few techniques may help reduce your hot flashes and their symptoms:
- Dress in layers to help with hot flashes, and use a fan in your home or office space.
- Do breathing exercises during a hot flash to try to minimize it.
Medications such as birth control pills, hormone therapy, or even other prescriptions may help you reduce hot flashes. See your doctor if youre having difficulty managing hot flashes on your own.
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Alternative And Complementary Menopause Treatments
Some studies have found that soy products relieve hot flashes, but researchers are still looking into it. There arenât many large studies on whether other supplements such as black cohosh or âbioidenticalâ hormones work for menopause symptoms. Talk to your doctor before starting any herbal or dietary supplements.
Yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture are safer ways to manage menopause symptoms.
What Can Be Done
A healthy lifestyle can minimize the effects of the menopause, helping to keep the heart and bones strong. Many women feel that this is a good time to review the way they treat their body. Here are some tips to consider:
Complementary & alternative therapies
These have become a popular choice and many women use them, although limited scientific research has been done to support their effect or indeed their safety. They may sometimes help with troublesome symptoms, but they are unlikely to have a significant impact on bone strength, the heart or blood vessels.
Choosing a complementary or alternative therapy can be a challenge so many different ones exist. Acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbal treatments, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, yoga and reflexology have all been reported as being helpful in the menopause.
To find out more about available therapies, please consult the WHC fact sheet Complementary/alternative therapies for menopausal women.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is the most effective and widely used treatment for menopausal symptoms. As its name suggests, it is simply a way of replacing the hormone oestrogen that is lost during the menopause.
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Healthy Diet And Menopause
Suggestions for maintaining good health through diet at the time of menopause include:
- Choose a wide variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, cereals, whole grains and small portions of lean meat, fish or chicken.
- Increase fluids and eat low-fat dairy foods with high calcium content.
Menopause Symptoms At Age 40
For the vast majority of women, menopause symptoms dont start this early. If menopause happens before age 40, its called premature menopause. If it happens between age 40 and age 45, its known as early menopause. Fewer than 10 percent of women experience premature or early menopause.
But if youre in your early 40s and are regularly experiencing symptoms such as changes to your periods timing or flow, hot flashes, mood changes or sleep problems, dont ignore them. Talk with a womens health specialist.
A specialist like an OB-GYN or certified nurse-midwife can work with you to determine whether your symptoms are related to menopause, or another reason such as hormonal disorders or other health conditions.
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Predicting Natural Menopause: Why Does Age Matter
If theres not a lot that women can do to change when theyll experience menopause, why does predicting it even matter?
It would be helpful for every woman to know exactly when menopause will arrive. Beyond recognizing and addressing issues such as increased cardiovascular disease risk and risks related to bone health, if a woman knows her age of menopause and how long the perimenopause transition will last, it could help her make important health decisions, says Faubion.
If youre bleeding like crazy it would be helpful to know, she says.
As of now, research hasnt uncovered a way to determine when a women will go into menopause, but having that information could be useful in making decisions such as whether to have a hysterectomy or other invasive procedures, says Faubion. If menopause is going to be a few months or a year from now, you may choose to wait it out if it’s going to be five years from now, you might want to go ahead and have an invasive procedure, she says.
The ability to predict when menopause will occur could also help with managing menopause symptoms or deciding which type of birth control to use, adds Faubion.
Will I Still Enjoy Sex After Menopause
You should still be able to enjoy sex after menopause. Sometimes, decreased sex drive is related to discomfort and painful intercourse. After treating the source of this pain , many women are able to enjoy intimacy again. Hormone therapy can also help many women. If you are having difficulties enjoying sex after menopause, talk to your healthcare provider.
How Do I Know If Changes In My Periods Are Normal Perimenopausal Symptoms Or Something To Be Concerned About
Irregular periods are common and normal during perimenopause . But other conditions can cause abnormalities in menstrual bleeding. If any of the following situations apply to you, see a doctor to rule out other causes.
- Your periods are changing to become very heavy, or accompanied by blood clots.
- Your periods last several days longer than usual.
- You spot or bleed after your period.
- You experience spotting after sex.
- Your periods occur closer together.
Potential causes of abnormal bleeding include hormonal imbalances, hormonal treatments, pregnancy, fibroids, blood-clotting problems or, rarely, cancer.
What You Can Do To Stay Healthy Postmenopause
Its never been more important to take a proactive role in your health care. Many women suffer unnecessarily from symptoms that can be managed with prescribed treatments or home remedies. Talk to your doctor before you begin taking any new supplement or treatment, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies.
Aside from hormone therapy some of the most common postmenopausal treatments include:
- Hormone therapy: Helps reduce hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and may prevent bone loss.
- Vaginal estrogen: Relieves vaginal dryness, discomfort during sex, and some urinary symptoms.
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements or other osteoporosis treatments: Aids in strengthening bones.
- Vaginal lubricants: Increases comfort during sex.
- Incontinence treatments: Various lifestyle changes and medical options for gaining bladder control.
- Exercise: Stimulates heart and bone health and maintains healthy weight.
- Diet: Helps manage healthy weight.
Postmenopausal health is about a lot more than your ovaries and uterus. Keep up with annual physical exams and schedule those regular preventive screenings, such as mammogram, bone density screening, Pap smear, mole checks, and colonoscopy. Remember your teeth and gums and your eyes, too. Theres never been a better time to focus on your own well-being.
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