Menopause is the time when women naturally stop having menstrual periods. This happens due to ovaries stop making estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that helps control the menstrual cycle. Although this condition is a normal part of the aging process, it can also increase the risk of developing certain other risk problems, including weak bones (osteoporosis) and cardiac disease.
When does menopause occur?
Menstruation comes to an end, typically in the late 40s or early 50s.A woman who hasn't had periods for a year is considered menopausal. Menopausal transition usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. There are several lifestyle factors that can affect the menopause transition, such as smoking, one's age of onset, and race and ethnicity. Menopause that happens before the age of 40 is known as premature menopause where else. Menopause happens between 40 and 45 is called early menopause. Approximately 5% of women naturally experience early menopause.
Menopause transition stages:
PERIMENOPAUSE: It begins several years before a woman's last period. When hormone levels begin to change, women may experience irregular, shorter/longer, heavier or lighter menstrual cycles than usual, and spacing between periods might change. It is also possible for women to experience hot flashes and other changes during this phase. Women can experience perimenopause as early as age 40, but on average it begins around age 47.
MENOPAUSE: Women reach menopause after a year since their last period. It means that women have not experienced any bleeding or spotting for 12 months. Typically occurs around the age 51.
POSTMENOPAUSE: After menopause, women enter post-menopause. Hormone levels remain low and women are no longer able to get pregnant or have monthly menstrual cycles.
What are the signs of menopause?
Most women will experience symptoms of menopause, and many women who are still having periods will also experience early symptoms of menopause. Menopausal symptoms can start from months or even years before periods stop and can last for years after.
Changes in the menstrual cycle is a common sign of perimenopause. Menstrual cycles may become longer than usual or become shorter. Women may begin to skip periods. Bleeding abnormalities may indicate menopause symptoms. Bleeding flow may become lighter or heavier. Although changes in menstrual bleeding are normal during perimenopause, women should still report them to their healthcare professional.
A few women have no symptoms during the perimenopause stage, while others have only mild symptoms. There are others who have many symptoms that can be quite severe.
Common signs and symptoms include the following:
Vaginal dryness and discomfort
Hot flashes (sweating, red patches to form on the skin )
Sleep disturbances (anxiety, night sweats, an increased need to urinate )
Emotional changes ( Depression, anxiety, and low mood )
Physical changes (weight gain, Breast reduction and urinary incontinence )
Increased Health Risks After Menopause
The most significant danger women face after menopause is actually heart disease. The reason is that estrogen helps keep blood vessels flexible, so blood contracts and expands to accommodate blood flow. Once estrogen levels fall, this benefit is lost. Before menopause, women’s bones are protected by estrogen, but after menopause bone loss will be rapid. Menopause also has an effect on a woman’s metabolism; it leads to increased weight. Urinary tract infection risk increases after menopause. Difficulty in controlling the bladder can begin in perimenopause and continue for years after.
Treatments and Care
It is possible to relieve the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause with hormone
therapy. In hormone therapy, estrogen is taken along with progestin, if you haven't had a
hysterectomy and still have a uterus. Estrogen plus progestin is often called 'combined
hormone therapy' or simply 'hormone therapy'. If you do not have a uterus, estrogen is given without progestin.
There are very good ways to treat menopausal symptoms, regardless of how you experience them. Because you are unique, your symptoms will be unique and your treatment will be unique. Hormone replacement therapy may be right for you. This is a decision that you and your health care provider can make together.