Many people have questions about menopause. When will it start? What is normal? Does it feel like this for everyone? What can I do about it? How can I support someone going through it?
In honor of the women who have asked these questions, here’s a blog to get the conversation started! Although the information below won’t answer all of your questions, it could be a great place to start. As you read through the information, I encourage you to make a list of questions for your doctors, counselor, spouse, and trusted friends. You aren’t alone!
Three Stages of Menopause
This time may start years before your final menstrual period and is the result of changing levels of ovarian hormones in your body. Although it is still possible to get pregnant during this stage, it only happens rarely. Estrogen levels decline unevenly, so they are virtually impossible to predict or measure to determine exactly when the second stage will occur.Common symptoms for this stage include: irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and mood swings.
This is the natural (not caused by any medical intervention) and permanent ending of menstruation. Women often experience menopause around the same age as their mothers and sisters. Smokers may reach menopause about two years earlier than nonsmokers. No clear connection has been found between age at menopause and race, age at first period or use of birth control pills or fertility medications. This stage has occurred as early as in a woman’s 30s and as late as in a woman’s 60s. The average age of onset for the second stage in American women is 51. That leaves a lot of life after menopause! Common symptoms for this stage include symptoms above, sometimes more intense.
Postmenopause is the time after menopause, which is typically about a third of a woman’s life. It is possible to live a sexually-fulfilled, emotionally-stable life after menopause, but some interventions may be needed (counseling, medication, etc.) Some menopause-related symptoms (such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes) may still occur because your body is only making a small amount of estrogen. In this time, your risk increases for diseases associated with low estrogen levels, including osteoporosis.
How might menopause affect a woman?
Even though there are struggles associated with menopause, everyone’s journey will be different. Your physical, psychological, and spiritual resources can help you to develop a plan including things like self-care, medical treatments, and lifestyle changes. Consider tracking your experiences to share information with your doctor. You’ll get through this– you aren’t alone!