What is Menopause?
Menopause, also known as the climacteric, is the time in most women’s lives when menstrual periods stop permanently, and they are no longer able to have children. Menopause typically occurs between 45 and 55 years of age. Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not had any vaginal bleeding for a year. It may also be defined by a decrease in hormone production by the ovaries. In those who have had surgery to remove their uterus but they still have ovaries, menopause may be viewed to have occurred at the time of the surgery or when their hormone levels fell. Following the removal of the uterus, symptoms typically occur earlier, at an average of 45 years of age.
Before menopause, a woman’s periods typically become irregular, which means that periods may be longer or shorter in duration, or be lighter or heavier in terms of the amount of flow. During this time, women often experience hot flashes; these typically last from 30 seconds to ten minutes, and may be associated with shivering, sweating and reddening of the skin. Hot flashes often stop occurring after a year or two. Other symptoms may include vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping, and mood changes. The severity of symptoms varies between women. In some women, problems that were previously present like endometriosis or painful periods will improve after menopause.
How do I know if I have Menopause?
During early menopause transition, the menstrual cycles remain regular but the interval between cycles begins to lengthen. Hormone levels begin to fluctuate. Ovulation may not occur with each cycle.
The date of the final menstrual period is usually taken as the point in time when menopause has occurred. During the menopausal transition and after menopause, women can experience a wide range of symptoms.
The most accurate way to tell if it’s happening to you is to watch your menstrual cycles for 12 months in a row. It helps to keep track of your periods and chart them as they become irregular.
What Are the Symptoms?
When it starts naturally, the first sign may be an irregular menstrual cycle. Once it gets off-schedule, it should stop completely within about 4 years. You might also notice these symptoms:
Lower sex drive
Vaginal dryness and soreness
What Are the Stages?
The process happens slowly over three stages:
Your cycles will become irregular, but they haven’t stopped. Most women hit this stage around age 47. Even though you might notice symptoms like hot flashes, you can still get pregnant.
This is when you’ll have your final menstrual period. You won’t know for sure it’s happened until you’ve gone a year without one. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, and other symptoms are common in this stage.
This begins when you hit the year mark from your final period. Once that happens, you’ll be referred to as postmenopausal for the rest of your life. Keep in mind that after more than 1 year of no menstrual periods due to menopause, vaginal bleeding isn’t normal, so tell your doctor if you have any ASAP.