Menopause is a stage in a woman’s life that marks the end of her reproductive years. This normally occurs in women in their late 40s to early 50s. Depending on one’s ovarian health and genetics, however, it can happen earlier or later than the median age. Menopause does not happen overnight. It transpires over a couple of weeks or months and goes through several stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
The Stages of Menopause
Perimenopause means “around menopause” and this is the time during which the body makes a slow, natural transition to menopause. Women experience this stage at different ages. Some women may undergo this stage in their mid-30s while some in their early to mid-40s. During the perimenopausal stage, a woman’s estrogen level rises and falls unevenly, causing various changes in the body.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
Because of hormonal changes in the body, women may experience irregular menstruation as ovulation becomes more unpredictable. The length of time between periods may start to vary and menstrual flow may begin to change. It is also possible for someone to skip some periods during the perimenopausal stage. As estrogen levels decrease, women may also experience vaginal problems as the tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity. This may make intercourse more painful and leave a woman more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections. To relieve this, doctors may prescribe vaginal or oral estrogen to reduce discomfort.
With ovulation periods becoming more irregular, women in their perimenopausal stage may experience decreasing fertility. While pregnancy may be a challenge, it certainly is not impossible. As long as a woman is still having periods, she is still able to conceive. Hormonal changes can also bring negative changes on the blood cholesterol level. Declining estrogen levels may lead to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—bad cholesterol—which puts women at a higher risk of getting heart diseases.
Menopause officially begins when the ovaries produce very little estrogen that eggs are no longer released. A telltale sign that menopause has started is when a woman has not had her period in a full year. This signals the permanent end of her menstrual cycle and she can no longer get pregnant.
Symptoms of Menopause
As the body transitions to menopause, it may continue to experience similar symptoms from perimenopause, among other things.
Hot flashes are a primary symptom of menopaused caused by the decreased estrogen in the body. These are sudden feelings of heat either in the upper part of the body or all over. This causes the body to turn red and feel sweaty or flushed. These episodes can last between 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Women in their menopausal stage may also have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep at night. This may be attributed to the low estrogen and progesterone levels in the body; hormones responsible for promoting sleep.
During menopause, women may also feel pain when they pee or urinary incontinence even without a full bladder. This is caused by the tissues in the vagina and urethra losing their elasticity and their linings starting to thin out. It is also normal to have decreased libido during menopause due to the physical changes brought on by reduced estrogen. These changes may include delayed clitoral reaction time, slow or absent orgasmic response, and vaginal dryness. These symptoms may be easily remedied with prescriptions from an OB-GYNE.
Women may stop experiencing symptoms of perimenopause and menopause once they are postmenopausal. During this period, the hormone levels in a woman’s body will remain at a constant low level. Monthly menstrual cycles will no longer be experienced by postmenopausal women. Because of this, they will not be able to get pregnant.
With lower hormones in the body, women in the postmenopause stage are more at risk of having osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, depression, and vaginal infection. Women in this period of their lives are advised to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. This includes having regular checkups with a doctor.
The stages of menopause are a natural biological process. There is no need to panic when experiencing the aforementioned symptoms. You can always consult with a doctor to learn more about this stage in your life. Schedule an appointment with a specialist to learn how you can go through the stages of menopause safely and healthily. Call us at (02) 8523-81-31 and we can direct you to an OB-GYNE who can help you.