It’s something that’s joked about and whispered about, feared and dreaded. It’s got all kinds of euphemistic names – the change of life, the silent passage, the middle-age spread, that time of life. And it does mark a significant milestone in any woman’s life.
But menopause does not have to be a negative experience for a woman. On the contrary, many women find new determination during menopause – new strength, new inspiration, new passion. It’s all a matter of how you approach this time of change and transition. And any woman’s first step should be a visit to her physician.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural part of the aging process for women. Some women begin experiencing symptoms of menopause as early as their late 30s, while others don’t begin the process until their late 50s. The average age of onset, however, is 51.
During menopause, the ovaries gradually stop functioning due to aging. This dramatically reduces the amount of estrogen and other hormones being produced by your body. While menopause is technically defined as the last menstrual period a woman has, doctors wait until you have gone 12 consecutive months without a period before confirming menopause.
You may also have heard of perimenopause and postmenopause. Perimenopause is the time period before the onset of menopause, and can last several years. During perimenopause, estrogen levels begin to fluctuate, slowly declining on the whole, but in an irregular, uneven way, so that sometimes your estrogen levels may be even higher than they were when you were younger! Symptoms of perimenopause are similar to those of menopause, but women can still become pregnant during this time.
Postmenopause, on the other hand, is the time period after menopause has been completed and confirmed. While most symptoms have abated by this time, it is still possible to experience them in a milder form, since your body is still producing small amounts of estrogen.
This period is also a time when women are more at risk for developing osteoporosis, due to reduced levels of estrogen.
Symptoms of Menopause
Just about everyone has heard of the symptoms of menopause. Reduced estrogen levels cause fluctuations in body temperature, metabolism, and blood pressure, among other things, which result in the hot flashes, weight gain, mood swings, and headaches experienced by many menopausal women. But these are not the only symptoms you may experience during menopause. Insomnia, vaginal dryness, night sweats, loss of libido, anxiety, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating are also common.
Treatments During Menopause
A big part of learning to deal with menopause in a healthy, positive way is getting the helpful advice of your OB/GYN. A doctor will be able to prescribe treatments and outline lifestyle changes you can make that will help relieve some of your symptoms.
Many women choose to take prescription estrogen, or estrogen and progesterone, in order to reduce the impact of menopause symptoms. But if you prefer to avoid hormone replacement therapy, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to minimize symptoms, as well. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise definitely make a difference in the way you feel. And in response to specific symptoms, such as hot flashes, it can be helpful to dress lightly and in layers, and to avoid certain triggers, such as caffeine or spicy food.Your doctor will be able to give you personalized advice based on your own individual symptoms.
If you have begun to experience the symptoms of menopause, contact your nearest Zeid Women’s Health Center today to make an appointment to discuss your options. With locations in Henderson, Longview, and Tyler, we’re easily accessible to anyone living in East Texas.