Menopause is a phase in the aging process when a woman stops having menstrual periods completely and cannot conceive children. Many women find this transition unpleasant due to the changes, symptoms, and health risks. Knowing what to expect can reduce feelings of apprehension and help you embrace the inevitable. Additionally, there are many ways women can achieve symptom relief during their menopausal years.
When Does Menopause Start?
Menopause can start at various ages, but the typical age range in the U.S. is 45-58, with the average being 51 or 52. Early menopause is between 40-45, and late is 55+. Premature menopause occurs in 1% of women, beginning in their 30s. Surgical removal of the ovaries causes menopause immediately, at any age.
Natural menopause is official when the woman experiences 12 consecutive months without a period. However, the menopausal phase can begin years before this happens and has three subphases.
When a woman says, “I’m going through menopause,” she is actually going through perimenopause. Perimenopause is the long phase before hitting menopause, as the body is transitioning. Perimenopause can start years before menopause, typically in your 40s. Hormone levels are yo-yoing, causing an array of symptoms to emerge. Some changes are subtle, while others are more noticeable. Perimenopausal women experience many of the symptoms listed below.
- Irregular periods
- Longer or shorter menstrual cycles
- Inconsistent ovulation
- Hot flashes
- Cognitive/memory changes
- Worsening mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Decreased libido
- Intercourse discomfort
- Breast tenderness
- Heart palpitations
- Bone loss
- Altered cholesterol levels
- Bladder problems/urgency
Perimenopause ends and menopause is reached after one full year without periods. Nearing the end of perimenopause, some symptoms are not as intense. The most common menopause symptoms include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes/night sweats
- Mood swings
- Hair changes
- Dry mouth, eyes, and skin
After 12 months period-free, a woman is now postmenopausal. Menopausal symptoms begin to subside, such as hot flashes and mood swings. Other symptoms may become long-term conditions such as chronic UTIs and vaginal dryness.
After reaching menopause, women are at higher risk for certain health conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Consult a physician regarding these and other health risks.
Menopause management is a rollercoaster that can be difficult to manage, but there are ways you can ease the symptoms.
Enhance your wellbeing: The importance of healthy living cannot be overstated. By adjusting your lifestyle, you can remedy the symptoms with menopause care while improving your overall wellbeing.
- Healthy food choices
- Stop smoking
- A consistent sleep schedule and earlier bedtime
- Vitamins and supplements
- Self-calming activities and hobbies
Sexual wellness: Conditions like low libido and vaginal dryness can make intimacy difficult. Water-soluble lubricants can help with the discomfort. Communicate with your partner about your concerns and know that it is ok to talk to a doctor if you are experiencing intimacy issues.
Social support: It helps to discuss your concerns and emotions with friends or family members you trust. They may offer great advice and support.
Positive outlook: Menopause is a natural progression in a woman’s life. Embracing your body’s changes in a positive light can help you get through the tough times and support a healthy mental state. This can lead to more symptom relief and stress reduction. Positive outcomes include:
- No worry of pregnancy
- No more periods
- Symptoms like mood swings subside
- Self-focus—You might notice you are more aware of your body and, therefore, able to care for it better than before.
- Empowerment—For many women, reaching menopause can be a powerful feeling of freedom and control over their lives.
Colorado Obstetrics and Women’s Health If you are unsure if you are going through menopause or need assistance balancing symptoms and life, contact Colorado Obstetricians and Women’s Health. Our experienced OB/GYNs and staff can help you during this transition and educate you on menopause care and management. Call 719-634-8800 to schedule an appointment.