What Are The Hormonal Changes During Menopause
The traditional changes we think of as “menopause” happen when the ovaries no longer produce high levels of hormones. The ovaries are the reproductive glands that store eggs and release them into the fallopian tubes. They also produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone as well as testosterone. Together, estrogen and progesterone control menstruation. Estrogen also influences how the body uses calcium and maintains cholesterol levels in the blood.
As menopause nears, the ovaries no longer release eggs into the fallopian tubes, and youll have your last menstrual cycle.
At What Age Does A Woman Typically Reach Menopause
The average age of menopause is 51 years old. However, there is no way to predict when an individual woman will have menopause or begin having symptoms suggestive of menopause. The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is also not related to the age of menopause onset. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but menopause may occur as earlier as ages 30s or 40s, or may not occur until a woman reaches her 60s. As a rough “rule of thumb,” women tend to undergo menopause at an age similar to that of their mothers.
Symptoms and signs related to the menopausal transition such as irregularities in the menstrual cycle, can begin up to 10 years prior to the last menstrual period.
Depression And Mood Swings
Changes in hormone production affect the moods of women during menopause. Some women report feelings of irritability, depression, and mood swings, and often go from extreme highs to severe lows in a short period of time. Its important to remember that these hormone fluctuations affect your brain and that feeling blue is not unnatural.
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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.
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.
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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.
When Should I Call My Doctor
If any of your postmenopause symptoms bother you or prevent you from living your daily life, contact your healthcare provider to discuss possible treatment. They can confirm you have completed menopause and are in postmenopause.
Some questions you might ask are:
- Are these symptoms normal for people in postmenopause?
- Is there treatment for my symptoms?
- Is hormone therapy still an option?
- What can I do to feel better?
If you experience any vaginal bleeding during postmenopause, contact your healthcare provider to rule out a serious medical condition.
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Telltale Symptoms Of Menopause
Are you nervously awaiting menopause? Wondering if your symptoms mean youve entered this transitional time? Are you sure youre aware of the telltale symptoms?
Menopause is a natural process that happens when your female hormone levels decline and youre no longer able to get pregnant. The average age of onset is 51, but symptoms often begin before menopause, and last several years longer.
The timing of menopause is different for every woman, so its not always easy to know if your symptoms are due to perimenopause, menopause, or something else. At OB/GYN Specialists in Denton, Texas, Daniel McDonald, MD, , and our team partner with women to ensure theyre enjoying their best health at every age and menopause is no exception.
Who Should Not Take Menopausal Hormone Therapy
Menopausal hormone therapy may not be safe for some women. You should discuss your risks with your doctor if you have:
- A history of heart disease or risk factors, such as high cholesterol
- A family or personal history of breast cancer
- High levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood
- A family history of gallbladder disease
- Liver disease
- A history of stroke or blood clots
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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.
What Are Menopause Symptoms And Signs
It is important to remember that each woman’s experience is highly individual. Some women may experience few or no symptoms of menopause, while others experience multiple physical and psychological symptoms. The extent and severity of symptoms varies significantly among women. It is also important to remember that symptoms may come and go over an extended period for some women. This, too, is highly individual. These symptoms of menopause and perimenopause are discussed in detail below.
What Are Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are plant-based substances found in some cereals, vegetables, beans and other legumes, and herbs. They may work in the body like a weak form of estrogen. Researchers are studying whether phytoestrogens can be used to relieve some symptoms of menopause. They are also studying the side effects caused by these substances. Many soy products are good sources of phytoestrogens. These include tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and soy nuts. Some studies indicate that soy supplements may reduce hot flashes after menopause.
However, the results havent been consistent. There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of herbs that contain phytoestrogens to treat symptoms of menopause. This is also true of pills and creams made with these herbs. In addition, not enough is known about the risks of using these products. Herbs and supplements are not regulated like medicines. Some herbs and supplements can be harmful when combined with certain medicines. If youre considering using any natural or herbal products to ease your symptoms, talk to your doctor first.
What Are Hot Flashes
Hot flashes can be a pretty unpleasant symptom of perimenopause and menopause. We dont totally understand the cause of hot flashes.
Most people describe a hot flash as a sudden hot feeling that spreads all over your body but mostly the upper body, like your arms, chest, and face. You may also get sweaty, and your fingers may tingle and your heart may beat faster. A typical hot flash usually lasts anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
Hot flashes at night are called night sweats. Sometimes they can get so severe that you soak your sheets with sweat.
Hot flashes are super common. More than 3 out of 4 people have them while going through perimenopause and menopause.
Nothing will make hot flashes stop completely, but there are some things you can do to help get some relief. Wearing light, loose clothes, keeping your room cool, drinking cold liquids, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine can help you stay cool.
Prescription hot flash treatments can be helpful, too. Hormone therapy works best to treat hot flashes, but other medicines like SSRIs and SNRIs and clonidine may also help. Research shows that herbs, vitamins, acupuncture, and reflexology dont help with hot flashes.
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Menopause At A Glance
- Every woman is affected by menopause in some way either they experience symptoms or other physical changes.
- The average age of menopause is 51 years but you can enter menopause earlier.
- Hormonal changes cause menopausal symptoms.
- Most women will have some symptoms.
- Most women have symptoms for 5 to 10 years.
Menopause occurs when you have not had a menstrual period for 12 months. Menopause is a natural part of life occurring at around age 51 years but can also happen for other reasons including after:
- surgery to remove ovaries and/or your womb/uterus
- radiotherapy to your pelvis.
At menopause, you stop producing oestrogen and this can lead to menopausal symptoms. Oestrogen levels can vary in the time leading up to the final menstrual period .
What’s The First Sign Of Perimenopause
The first perimenopause sign is typically a disruption of your menstrual cycle. For many women, your period starts earlier or later than normal. For example, if your menstrual cycle has always been 28 days, during perimenopause, your period could come as early as 21 or as late as 35 days. Some women start skipping months entirely and then experience heavier-than-normal periods when they do have them.
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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 feeling you are experiencing. Support groups and counseling are useful tools when dealing with these emotional changes during menopause.
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:
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Changes In Menstrual Cycle
Your period may not be as regular as it used to be. You may bleed heavier or lighter than usual, and occasionally spot. Also, your period may be shorter or longer in duration.
If you do miss your period, make sure to rule out pregnancy. If youre not pregnant, a missed period could indicate the onset of menopause. If you do begin spotting after not having your period for 12 consecutive months, make sure to talk to your doctor to rule out any serious conditions, such as cancer.
Mood And Memory Effects
Menopause-related cognitive impairment can be confused with the mild cognitive impairment that precedes dementia. Tentative evidence has found that forgetfulness affects about half of menopausal women and is probably caused by the effects of declining estrogen levels on the brain, or perhaps by reduced blood flow to the brain during hot flashes.
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Menopause Symptom: Vaginal Problems And Infections
Vaginal problems, such as vaginal dryness, may start or get worse in the time around menopause. Low levels of the hormone may cause your vaginal tissue to get drier and thinner. This can cause itching, burning and pain or discomfort. It also can make sex painful and cause small cuts and tears in your vagina during sex. Vaginal cuts or tears put you at higher risk for .
Facts You Should Know About Menopause
- Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 months. It is the time in a woman’s life when the function of the ovaries ceases.
- The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather is a gradual process. This so-called perimenopausal transition period is a different experience for each woman.
- The average age of menopause is 51 years old, but menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s. There is no reliable lab test to predict when a woman will experience menopause.
- The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is not related to the age of menopause onset.
- Symptoms of menopause can include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, vaginal and urinary symptoms, and mood changes.
- Complications that women may develop after menopause include osteoporosis and heart disease.
- Treatments for menopause are customized for each woman.
- Treatments are directed toward alleviating uncomfortable or distressing symptoms.
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How Does Menopause Affect Heart Health
People are more likely to develop heart disease after menopause. Lower estrogen levels may be part of the cause. It also could be that other health issues that are more common as people get older. These include gaining weight, becoming less active, and developing high blood pressure or diabetes. You can reduce your risk of these health problems by eating a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods. It also helps to stay active and maintain an appropriate weight.
Is Having A Hard Time Concentrating And Being Forgetful A Normal Part Of Menopause
Unfortunately, concentration and minor memory problems can be a normal part of menopause. Though this doesnt happen to everyone, it can happen. Doctors arent sure why this happens. If youre having memory problems during menopause, call your healthcare provider. There are several activities that have been shown to stimulate the brain and help rejuvenate your memory. These activities can include:
- Doing crossword puzzles and other mentally stimulating activities like reading and doing math problems.
- Cutting back on passive activities like watching TV.
- Getting plenty of exercise.
Keep in mind that depression and anxiety can also impact your memory. These conditions can be linked to menopause.
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Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
SERMs are a category of drugs, either synthetically produced or derived from a botanical source, that act selectively as agonists or antagonists on the estrogen receptors throughout the body. The most commonly prescribed SERMs are raloxifene and tamoxifen. Raloxifene exhibits oestrogen agonist activity on bone and lipids, and antagonist activity on breast and the endometrium. Tamoxifen is in widespread use for treatment of hormone sensitive breast cancer. Raloxifene prevents vertebral fractures in postmenopausal, osteoporotic women and reduces the risk of invasive breast cancer.
What Can I Do About Hot Flashes
Hot flashes occur from a decrease in estrogen levels. In response to this, your glands release higher amounts of other hormones that affect the brain’s thermostat, causing your body temperature to fluctuate. Hormone therapy has been shown to relieve some of the discomfort of hot flashes for many women. However, the decision to start using these hormones should be made only after you and your healthcare provider have evaluated your risk versus benefit ratio.
To learn more about women’s health, and specifically hormone therapy, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health launched the Women’s Health Initiative in 1991. The hormone trial had 2 studies: the estrogen-plus-progestin study of women with a uterus and the estrogen-alone study of women without a uterus. Both studies ended early when the research showed that hormone therapy did not help prevent heart disease and it increased risk for some medical problems. Follow-up studies found an increased risk of heart disease in women who took estrogen-plus-progestin therapy, especially those who started hormone therapy more than 10 years after menopause.
The WHI recommends that women follow the FDA advice on hormone therapy. It states that hormone therapy should not be taken to prevent heart disease.
Practical suggestions for coping with hot flashes include:
Your Mood Is All Over The Place
My patients often tell me they feel crazy and dont know whats wrong with them, says Dr. Allmen. It could be onset of new mood symptoms or worsening of existing anxiety or depression. In fact, during menopause, women are two to four times more likely to experience depression.
Hormones might be responsible for these changes in mood. However, issues women tend to face in their 40s and 50s, like stress over worsening health or kids moving out and parents getting older, can also play a role.