Known as the “change of life,” menopause brings a definitive set of bodily changes that can be eased with treatment.
There are natural inevitabilities that women deal with, and menopause is one of those unavoidable events. For some, the arrival of menopause symptoms is a relief. For others, it serves as a reminder that certain biological possibilities are dwindling and their bodies are starting to change. For many, it’s a complex combination of both feelings. While menopause affects every woman differently, there are common changes you can expect with menopause and several ways you can treat your symptoms.
Changes to Expect With Menopause by Stage
There are three menopausal stages: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. Depending on the stage you are experiencing, changes and symptoms can affect you differently.
Perimenopause is a transitional stage between an active, regular menstrual cycle and active menopause. During this stage, symptoms can last anywhere between 2 and 10 years starting in your 40s or 50s:
- Shorter spans between menstrual cycles
- Difficulty conceiving
- Decreased hormonal production
- Initial hot flashes or night sweats
As this stage is a precursor to active menopause, you may experience changes that include increased irritability, weight gain, menstrual irregularity, and other symptoms associated with actual menopause.
1% of women actually experience perimenopause earlier, which can be due to early-onset puberty, family history of early-onset menopause, or a personal history of heavy smoking.
Active menopause is the stage denoting when menstrual periods finally stop occurring. Aside from a lack of menstrual cycles, other changes can be expected as well due to aging and hormone fluctuations:
- Weight gain in the abdominal and hip regions, usually between two to five pounds
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- A steep decline in hormonal production, particularly estrogen
- Lack of vaginal lubrication
- Insomnia or other sleeping problems
- Uterine bleeding not resulting from a menstrual period
- Depression and other mood changes
The expected changes with menopause aren’t always brought on by age: hysterectomies, chemotherapy, and other medical treatments can cause instantaneous menopause. In such cases, symptoms can appear suddenly and dramatically, often requiring immediate treatment to decrease negative effects.
After menopause has fully developed, you enter the stage of postmenopause. When you become postmenopausal, many of the negative effects diminish except certain physical effects from lack of hormones, including:
- Bone loss or osteoporosis
- Loss of bladder control or incontinence
- Hair loss
- Joint and muscle stiffness
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
As you experience the changes that come with menopause, you may want to consider some treatment options to better manage your symptoms. Menopause can affect both emotional and physical aspects of your life, so seeking out treatment is a positive step toward finding relief. Your doctor may suggest several options to relief your symptoms:
- Menopausal hormone therapy, to offset estrogen deficiencies
- Alternative treatment options, like exercise and nutrition programs
- Dietary supplements
- Over-the-counter medications
- Prescription medications, like antidepressants
For more information about how menopause may affect your life, contact The Woman’s Clinic. Call us with your questions and concerns about changes to expect with menopause, or make an appointment with one of our doctors. Be proactive about your maturing reproductive health and get in touch with us today.
*photo courtesy of Melhem Rizk through Flikr