Menopause is both a technical term and a general term. Technically, it refers to the end of menstruation and female fertility. Generally, it also encompasses the years-long transitional process of reaching menopause (perimenopause) and a woman’s remaining years of life following menopause (post-menopause).
The “change of life” can trigger various bothersome symptoms that many women find themselves unprepared for; it can also cause adverse health effects that are important to be aware of.
At New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, our expert team can help you manage menopause-related symptoms and navigate your new normal. Read on as Dr. Rania Ibrahim and Dr. Christina Parmar explain what you can expect from menopause, and offer strategies to help you successfully adjust to the changes.
The conclusion of female fertility doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, menopause is a gradual process that unfolds slowly as your aging ovaries release progressively lower levels of estrogen and progesterone, the reproductive hormones that control menstruation and make pregnancy possible. There are three basic stages of menopause:
Perimenopause is the years-long transitionary stage that leads to menopause. During this phase, you still menstruate, but your gradually declining reproductive hormone levels cause your period — and your body — to start changing. For most women, perimenopause begins sometime in their 40s and lasts 7 years. It can, however, last as long as 14 years.
You’ve officially reached menopause after 12 months with no period. In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51 years old, meaning menstruation last occurs at 50. For most women, menopause occurs roughly 35-40 years after the start of their menstrual cycle in puberty.
Once you reach menopause, you enter the post-menopause phase or the stage that lasts for the rest of your life. With your reproductive hormone levels fully tapered, your chances of developing certain health problems — including heart disease and osteoporosis — increase.
During perimenopause, declining hormone levels don’t simply alter your menstrual cycle or make it harder to get pregnant — they can also trigger a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms, including:
Because estrogen has a protective effect on heart and bone health, having low estrogen levels following menopause leaves you more susceptible to developing cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke) and osteoporosis, or a rapid loss of bone density and an increased risk of bone fractures.
Menopause may indicate the end of your fertility, but it doesn’t have to diminish your health, undermine your vitality, or interfere with your sex life. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment approach for menopause, many women find symptom relief and health support with one or more of the following strategies:
Making a few specific lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping you address many of the symptoms associated with menopause, from weight gain and dry skin to sleep problems and hot flashes.
Foundational adjustments include switching to a wholesome diet that minimizes added sugars and processed foods, drinking plenty of water, and developing a well-rounded workout routine that consists of bone-building exercises, heart-healthy endurance activities, and stretching.
You should also avoid smoking, take steps to manage your daily stress levels, and establish a sleep-supporting bedtime routine.
When menopause symptoms are severe or lifestyle changes don’t go far enough to offset their effects, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help. Using an individualized prescription blend made just for you, HRT seeks to restore hormonal balance, ease irritating symptoms, and reduce associated health risks.
If insufficient vaginal lubrication and discomfort during sex are a primary concern, we can help you remedy the problem with MonaLisa Touch® laser therapy. This innovative treatment aims to reverse vaginal dryness, reestablish your normal lubrication response, and restore vaginal function. MonaLisa Touch treatments can also help resolve mild urinary stress incontinence, a common problem for many menopausal women.
An annual well-woman exam is the best way to stay on top of your health through every phase of menopause, but it’s crucial in your post-menopause life. We conduct age-specific screenings and health checks to catch problems early when they’re easier to manage or resolve. We also help you control chronic health conditions so you can stay active and vital for years to come.