Menopause and Perimenopause
Growing older is simply a fact of life, and while greater wisdom often comes along with age, the gift of age also poses new challenges for many women. Menopause doesn’t need to be a mysterious villain that lurks along the outskirts of middle age. In many cases, with increased awareness comes a relief from the stress that the Menopause can bring about. Just as with most other things, knowing what’s going on with your body can make it easier to prepare and adapt to the changes that your body is going through.
Menopause occurs when a woman’s ovaries no longer release eggs and her menstrual period ends. The phase that occurs directly beforehand is called perimenopause, a time when some women may notice symptoms that are similar to menopause.
Every woman’s body is different, which means that not all will experience menopausal symptoms in the same way. By reading our menopausal guideline, however, you can be ready for any symptoms that you may experience.
The Menopause Cycle
So what age will menopause start? And are you on track? The answer is most likely yes. When a woman approaches her late 30’s, estrogen and reproductive hormones decline, which begins the process of menopause. The first phase is perimenopause, which then transitions into menopause and post-menopause. While the symptoms of menopause will likely begin in your late 40’s or early 50’s, there is no specific age when menopause should begin or end, as every woman’s body is unique. Some women will experience many of the symptoms noted in this article, while others will have an easier time and experience fewer of them.
If you are a bit earlier or later on the timeline, that’s okay too, and does not indicate that anything is wrong with you or your body. It’s always a good idea, however, to check in with your doctor if you have questions.
Perimenopause is the first stage of menopause, which is often experienced by women in their mid-late 40’s, about 3–5 years before undergoing menopause. During perimenopause, estrogen and hormonal levels begin to drop, and periods become irregular. Symptoms of the transition to menopause can also include:
- Hot flashes
- Elevated heart rate
- Lower sex drive
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness or discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Mood changes: irritability, depression, anxiety
- Urinary issues
It is recommended that women make some lifestyle changes to help deal with these symptoms. These can include: eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and staying active through these years of life.
Navigating the ins and outs of perimenopause won’t prevent the onset of menopause, but understanding the causes will help you prepare for when the symptoms may intensify. In the United States, the average age of women at the time when menopause begins is 51, but of course, this is not always the case. Some experts note that one factor in predicting when menopause will begin comes with knowing at what age a person’s mother experienced menopause.
By figuring out which symptoms of menopause affect you, you will better be able to manage the side effects.
Symptoms of and Treatments for Menopause
The symptoms associated with menopause can last a few years, with most women making the full transition over a five-year timespan. In addition to the loss of a monthly period, the symptoms you may experience can impact your life in ways that could come as a surprise.
Hot flashes or intense sweating during the day can cause anxiety, while night sweats can make it difficult to get a good, restful night’s sleep. Mood swings and fuzzy thinking can come as a surprise, taking you out of your A-game in a hurry.
Knowing that certain symptoms—like acne and weight gain—are connected to the onset of menopause can make it easier to deal with the anxiety and stress that these symptoms may cause. Talk with your doctor about creating a plan to work with the symptoms as they begin. The first priority should be leading a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, daily exercise, and limited caffeine and alcohol, which can help to alleviate symptoms like sleeplessness and weight gain. If you are a smoker, it may be time to finally end the habit, as quitting smoking can reduce hot flashes.
There are many simple and natural ways of dealing with the symptoms you experience during menopause. For example, if you experience many hot flashes, dressing in layers will allow you to take layers off when you feel a hot flash coming on.
Eating foods rich with probiotics, like yogurt, can help to improve production and regulation of important hormones such as insulin, which can help prevent weight gain during menopause.