Understanding The Menopausal Transition
Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition, or perimenopause.
The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about 7 years but can last as long as 14 years. During the menopausal transition, the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones made by the ovaries, varies greatly. Bones become less dense, making women more vulnerable to fractures. During this period, too, the body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily.
Menopause may be triggered by a hysterectomy or surgical removal of the ovaries, which produce hormones. If you have surgery to remove your ovaries or uterus and are not taking hormones, you will experience the symptoms of menopause immediately.
This time in a woman’s life is often full of other transitionsnot just physical ones. Women may be caring for aging parents or relatives, supporting their children as they move into adulthood, or taking on new responsibilities at work.
Which Physical Changes Make Sex Harder After Menopause
The hormonal changes in the female body at menopause can lead to some physical changes that may have a detrimental impact on your sex life, until you find ways to make post-menopausal sex easier. Some of the most common physical changes that affect sex after the menopause are:
- Vaginal tightness and/or shortening of the birth canal
- Vaginal atrophy
- Loss of libido
Menopause symptoms are a big topic and there is a lot to say about them. This list is distilled down to the ones that cause the most problems when it comes to sex, but each has a treatment option that may well work for you so read on if you want to find ways to manage your menopausal sex problems.
What Age Will I Be When I Go Through Menopause
The average age for onset of menopause is 51. The majority of women stop having periods somewhere between ages 45 to 55. The beginning stages of declining ovary function can start years before that in some women. Others will continue to have menstrual periods into their late 50s.
The age of menopause is
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How Should I Prepare For Menopause
Menopause is one of womens many important natural life-stages. For some, it is a challenging period of difficult physical and emotional changes. For others, it is a time of personal growth and renewal. And for many women, it is both at the same time. They don’t call it “Menopausal Zest” for nothing!
Here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your menopausal years to their fullest:
- Learn about menopause through recent books, articles and other reading materials.
- Talk to friends and relatives who have already gone through menopause.
- Join a menopause or midlife support-group in your area.
- Have a nutritious diet and enjoy regular exercise.
- Manage your stress by balancing your work and social life.
- Talk with your health care practitioner about your personal health concerns.
- Know that you have choices and can take charge of your health.
Do All Women Experience Menopause In The Same Way
Menopause experiences are different among individual women, and also among women in different cultures and in different parts of the world.
Research has shown that womens experience of menopause can be related to many things, including genetics, diet, lifestyle and social and cultural attitudes toward older women.
- Japanese women report fewer hot flashes and other symptoms.
- Thai women record a high incidence of headaches.
- Scottish women record fewer severe symptoms.
- Greek women report a high rate of hot flashes.
- Mayan women report no symptoms.
Some scholars wonder if the North American emphasis on youth and lack of respect for older people contributes to a more difficult menopausal transition here.
The typical North American diet, high in saturated fats and sugars, along with our in-active lifestyle and low childbirth rate, may also contribute to the physical complaints common to many North American women at menopause.
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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.
How Does Menopause Affect My Bladder Control
Unfortunately, bladder control issues are common for women going through menopause. There are several reasons why this happens, including:
- Estrogen. This hormone plays several roles in your body. It not only controls your period and promotes changes in your body during pregnancy, estrogen also keeps the lining of your bladder and urethra healthy.
- Pelvic floor muscles. Supporting the organs in your pelvis your bladder and uterus are called the pelvic floor muscles. Throughout your life, these muscles can weaken. This can happen during pregnancy, childbirth and from weight gain. When the muscles weaken, you can experience urinary incontinence .
Specific bladder control problems that you might have can include:
- Stress incontinence .
- Urge incontinence .
- Painful urination .
- Nocturia .
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How Long Does The Menopause Last
Symptoms of the menopause can start months or even years before periods stop completely. They usually continue for around 4 years after your last period, though some womens symptoms continue for much longer.
The menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but its very difficult to predict when it will take place in an individual.
Symptoms Of Premature And Early Menopause
The symptoms of early menopause are the same as for menopause at the typical age and can include:
- menstrual cycle changes, including changes to the usual bleeding pattern, particularly irregular bleeding
- hot flushes
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What Conditions Can Cause Early Menopause
Certain medical and surgical conditions can influence the timing of menopause.
Surgical removal of the ovaries
The surgical removal of the ovaries in an ovulating woman will result in an immediate menopause, sometimes termed a surgical menopause, or induced menopause. In this case, there is no perimenopause, and after surgery, a woman will generally experience the signs and symptoms of menopause. In cases of surgical menopause, women often report that the abrupt onset of menopausal symptoms results in particularly severe symptoms, but this is not always the case.
The ovaries are often removed together with the removal of the uterus . If a hysterectomy is performed without removal of both ovaries in a woman who has not yet reached menopause, the remaining ovary or ovaries are still capable of normal hormone production. While a woman cannot menstruate after the uterus is removed by a hysterectomy, the ovaries themselves can continue to produce hormones up until the normal time when menopause would naturally occur. At this time, a woman could experience the other symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and mood swings. These symptoms would then not be associated with the cessation of menstruation. Another possibility is that premature ovarian failure will occur earlier than the expected time of menopause, as early as one to two years following the hysterectomy. If this happens, a woman may or may not experience symptoms of menopause.
Cancer chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Why Does Menopause Happen
Natural menopause menopause that happens in your early 50s and is not caused by surgery or another medical condition is a normal part of aging. Menopause is defined as a complete year without menstrual bleeding, in the absence of any surgery or medical condition that may cause bleeding to artificially stop As you age, the reproductive cycle begins to slow down and prepares to stop. This cycle has been continuously functioning since puberty. As menopause nears, the ovaries make less of a hormone called estrogen. When this decrease occurs, your menstrual cycle starts to change. 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 are all part of your bodys adjustment to these changes.
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What Symptoms Are Caused By The Reduced Levels Of Estrogen In My Body
About 75 percent of women experience hot flashes during menopause, making them the most common symptom experienced by menopausal women. Hot flashes can occur during the day or at night. Some women may also experience muscle and joint pain, known as arthralgia, or mood swings.
It may be difficult to determine whether these symptoms are caused by shifts in your hormones, life circumstances, or the aging process itself.
Menopause And Complementary Therapies
Some women can benefit from using complementary therapies for menopause. But it is important to remember that natural herb and plant medications can have unpleasant side effects in some women, just like prescribed medications. A registered naturopath may provide long-term guidance and balance through the menopausal years.Herbal therapies can often be taken in conjunction with hormone therapy. It is important to let both your doctor and naturopath know exactly what each has prescribed, and to consult your doctor before taking any herbal treatments or dietary supplements for menopause. Some natural therapies can affect or interact with other medications you may be taking.
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How Is Early Menopause Diagnosed
The time leading into menopause is called perimenopause. During this time, you may have irregular periods and other symptoms that come and go.
Youre generally considered to be in menopause if you go 12 months without menstrual bleeding, and you dont have another medical condition to explain your symptoms.
Tests arent usually needed to diagnose menopause. Most women can self-diagnose menopause based on their symptoms. But if you think youre experiencing early menopause, you may want to see your doctor to be sure.
Your doctor can order hormone tests to help determine whether your symptoms are due to perimenopause or another condition. These are the most common hormones to check:
- Anti-Mullerian hormone . The
Lifestyle Factors In Controlling The Symptoms And Complications Of Menopause
Many of the symptoms of menopause and the medical complications that may develop in postmenopausal women can be lessened or even avoided by taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Regular exercise can help protect against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Exercise also has proven mental health benefits.
- Stop smoking
Which types of doctors treat menopausal symptoms?
The symptoms of menopause are often treated by a womanâs gynecologist. Primary care providers, including family medicine specialists and internists, may also treat the symptoms of menopause.
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What Other Factors Influence When Perimenopause Starts Or When A Woman Reaches Menopause
New research published online on April 12 in Menopause, the journal of NAMS, looked at the various factors that may affect the age when natural menopause occurs.
They found that there are factors that do seem predictive of when a woman will approach menopause, such as higher estradiol and follicle-stimulating hormone levels, which weve known for a while,” says Streicher. Irregular menstrual bleeding and hot flashes were also indicators of earlier menopause, she adds.
One new finding uncovered in the research was around alcohol consumption. The authors observed that participants tended to increase their alcohol consumption when approaching menopause, making it a potential clue that the change was coming.
That makes sense, says Streicher. This can be a time of added stress for women, and we know that any stressful situation can cause someone to drink more, she says.
Although this study didnt find a strong association with smoking, other research has indicated that smoking is related to early onset of menopause, says Streicher.
Are Women Who Arent Experiencing Menopausal Symptoms Still Fertile
No matter when you experience natural menopause, your chances of getting pregnant after the age of 40 are low, says Faubion. But you can still become pregnant as youre transitioning to menopause, and you still need to use birth control if you don’t want to conceive, she adds.
Streicher confirms, saying, Fertility and menopause are not the same thing there are plenty of women who are pumping out estrogen and menstruating and are not fertile. If youre sexually active, its important to consult with your doctor before making any decisions about birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancy.
On the other hand, dont assume that just because you are still menstruating that you can get pregnant. Women who are concerned that they may have trouble conceiving or think they may experience menopause early and still want children should discuss options such as egg freezing with their doctor, says Streicher.
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What Factors Influence How Long Menopause Lasts
Although there is a usual range for how long menopause symptoms last, each woman’s journey is unique. The transition often takes about four years, but some symptoms may last longer. There are no hard and fast rules as menopause begins and ends on its own schedule.
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.
Differences By Socioeconomic Status
A number of studies have observed that lower social class, as measured by the woman’s educational attainment or by her own or her husband’s occupation, is associated with an earlier age at natural menopause.,,,,,, However, results from a British birth cohort indicated that early life socioeconomic status was more strongly associated than adult status with age at natural menopause, although even the relation of early life SES was greatly attenuated when adjusted for childhood cognitive ability and having been breastfed. One study found that education was more strongly associated with age at natural menopause than occupation. Most studies that have examined the relation of marital status have found that single women undergo an earlier natural menopause, and this association cannot be explained by nulliparity.,,
The Timing Of The Age At Which Natural Menopause Occurs
The age at the final menstrual period holds intrinsic clinical and public health interest because the age at which natural menopause occurs may be a marker of aging and health. Later age at natural menopause has been associated with:
longer overall survival and greater life expectancy and reduced all-cause mortality
reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and mortality from cardiovascular and ischemic heart disease, stroke, angina after myocardial infarction, and atherosclerosis
less loss of bone density, and a reduced risk of osteoporosis and fracture
but an increased risk of breast,, endometrial, and ovarian, cancers.
Although menopause is a universal phenomenon among women, the timing of the onset and the duration of the menopausal transition and the timing of the final menstrual period are not. Most of our knowledge and perceptions of menopause have been based largely on studies of white women, and many have been studies of clinic-based, rather than population-based, samples of women. Thus, until recently, much of the knowledge about the timing of the natural final menstrual period has been affected by the nature of the samples of women studied and a number of other methodologic differences in the studies of this phenomenon, which must be considered in comparing and summarizing their results.
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Menopause Mystery: Why Do Female Killer Whales Experience The Change Of Life
For people who cannot take estrogen therapy, or choose not to, Stuenkel says some drugs in the antidepressant family, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, can help with hot flashes. Stuenkel says, “While they’re not perfect, they can take the edge off and help enough so that women can get a better night’s sleep.”
There are an abundance of nonhormonal, nondrug treatment options for managing symptoms, some of which have significantly more evidence backing them than others. In 2015, a North American Menopause Society panel found that cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis were significantly effective in treating hot flashes. The same panel also found that popular herbal remedies are “unlikely to help,” although some NPR listeners who wrote in said they got relief from some of those treatments.
For depressive and anxiety symptoms, women may want to seek out professional counseling or a psychiatrist.
When do I need to see a doctor?
You might not need to at all. Some people sail right through menopause with little trouble. But if you are experiencing symptoms that are interfering with your life, it’s worth making an appointment. Some of these symptoms could indicate other problems that need treatment, such as fibroids or even cancer.
Ways to cope with symptoms
For people approaching this stage of life or who are already going through it, here are four steps for making this transition more manageable.
1. Get educated
2. Monitor your health
3. Practice smart self-care
4. Cultivate community