What is menopause?

Menopause is when menstruation ends. A woman is considered to be going through menopause if she hasn’t had a menstrual period for over a year.

For most women, menopause begins between 40 and 60, but it can begin earlier or later. While rare, some women go through premature menopause before the age of 40.

The average age for menopause in the United States is 52.

What causes menopause?

Menopause is the natural decline of reproductive hormone production in your body.

While it’s a natural part of aging, other factors can induce menopause, such as:

  • A total hysterectomy
  • Chemotherapy and radiation cancer therapies
  • Underlying medical conditions and autoimmune diseases

What is perimenopause?

There are three stages of menopause – perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.

Perimenopause is the time period leading up to menopause, beginning anywhere up to 8 years before when your ovaries slowly start to produce less estrogen.

For some women, perimenopause only lasts a few months, but typically, this phase lasts about 4 years. Perimenopause lasts up until your ovaries stop releasing eggs.

Perimenopause, the transition to menopause, usually starts in a woman’s mid-to-late 40s.

You can get pregnant during this time, and you can also start to experience menopausal symptoms to varying degrees.

How do you know when you are starting the transition to menopause?

Sometimes it can be hard for you and your doctor to tell whether you are in perimenopause or not, but you might be if you have

  • Symptoms – hot flashes or trouble sleeping
  • Irregular Periods – you may not ovulate every month, so you may start experiencing irregular periods. You may even skip a few months or have unusually long or short menstrual cycles. Your period may even be heavier or lighter than before. Track your periods and note any changes to your normal cycle.
  • Hormone levels – during the transition to menopause, your hormone levels go up and down in an unpredictable way. Your doctor may order a blood test to test the amount of hormones in your blood.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Hot flashes
  • Weight gain
  • Night sweats
  • Thinning hair
  • Lower energy
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Slowed metabolism
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles during perimenopause

What are the treatments for menopause?

Menopause treatments focus on reducing or alleviating symptoms. Many treatments also help manage chronic conditions associated with menopause and aging, such as osteoporosis.

The Women’s Health Specialists offer a range of menopause treatments, including:

  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Hormone therapy to restore hormonal balance
  • Medications to reduce risks like bone loss or high blood pressure
  • Vaginal estrogen, typically applied directly to the vagina as a topical cream
  • Low-dose antidepressants or SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)

Your Women’s Health Specialist encourages you to try healthy at-home treatments to relieve your symptoms, such as:

  • Yoga
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Getting enough sleep

This information is provided for informational educational purposes only, and should not be considered as individual medical advice. Please discuss your specific situation with your medical provider.

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