Menopause is the term used to describe the changes a woman’s body goes through before or after she stops menstruating at the end of her reproductive cycle. It is a normal part of aging most women will experience. For many women, changes usually begin with something called perimenopause. This can begin several years before your last menstrual period due to changes in estrogen and progesterone, two female hormones made in your ovaries. This usually happens after the age of 40 and up to age 55, though some women can start earlier or later.
Not all women will experience the same symptoms.
The most documented symptoms include:
- Change in your period (very close together, heavy bleeding, and/or spotting).
- Irregular or skipped periods.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Hot flashes.
- Hair thinning.
- Increased facial hair.
- Changes in sex drive.
- Bladder control issues.
Some women will experience symptoms that may require medical treatment. It’s important to talk to your doctor about how to best manage your individual menopause symptoms. It’s also critical that your doctor knows your personal and family medical histories.
Some women are also at risk for:
- Bladder and bowel issues.
- Heart disease.
- Vision issues.
- Skin issues (elasticity).
Staying healthy before and after menopause is really important. Doctors recommend that you:
- Choose not to smoke.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Partner with your doctor.
- Manage your weight.
- Be physically active.
- Take all medications as prescribed.
- Get regular pelvic and breast exams, Pap tests, and mammograms.
While menopause is a normal part of aging, it doesn’t have to be dreaded or uncomfortable. Have a conversation with your doctor today about how to prepare for or manage your symptoms.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/womensrh/
National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause
U.S. Library of Medicine: https://medlineplus.gov/menopause.html