What is Menopause?
Menopause occurs when the menstrual cycle permanently ends. Menopause typically has three stages: premenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Premenopause can start affecting the body years before a woman’s last period occurs. Menopause is diagnosed after one full year (12 months) without a period. Postmenopause lasts the rest of a woman’s life. A woman’s body is still able to become pregnant until her period has been absent for 12 months.
At What Age Does Menopause Occur?
Menopause can occur anytime between a woman’s forties or fifties, but the average age is 51. Some factors can affect the timing of menopause. For example, smoking or chemotherapy can cause early menopause. Also, having a partial hysterectomy will end the menstrual cycle. However, unless the procedure has involved the removal of the ovaries (full hysterectomy), estrogen will still be produced and menopausal symptoms will not occur until the typical menopause age.
What are the Symptoms of Menopause?
Because of the body’s changes in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, a woman’s body may experience some of the following symptoms. However, menopause symptoms vary from woman to woman.
- Changes in period
- Vaginal and/or bladder infections
- Vaginal discomfort and dryness
- Urinary Incontinence
- Changes in sex drive
- Trouble sleeping
- Hot flashes
- Irritability and other emotional changes
- Weight gain or body changes
- Increased risk for osteoporosis
- Increased risk for heart disease
Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT), or taking estrogen or progesterone, may relieve or lessen some of the symptoms of menopause. It is recommended that a woman take the lowest necessary dosage. Beyond MHT, there are few treatment options. Each symptom should be addressed individually.
Hot flashes can be relieved by sleeping with a fan in the room (if the hot flashes occur at night) or having a cool drink. Keeping track of when hot flashes affect you can help you to determine the triggers.
Using a water-based vaginal lubricant or a vaginal estrogen cream can help with vaginal discomfort.
Kegel exercises can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help with urinary incontinence.
Because your body weight may shift, it is important to continue basic healthy habits, including eating healthy and lightly exercising. Exercise can also help with emotional changes.
Medicine may be prescribed to treat some of the symptoms of menopause. Speaking with a gynecologist or doctor is very important during this time, as the body becomes at risk for diseases like osteoporosis and heart disease. Wake Women’s Health provides gynecological assistance to women experiencing menopause in the Raleigh, NC area. Contact us to learn more about the services we can provide.