Until recently, the stigma of Menopause prevented many women from talking about their condition with girlfriends, family, or spouses, which has lead to misinformation and lack of understanding of this natural process. So how do I know if I'm Menopausal? Read or Am I in Menopause quiz questions below.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is the natural transition of a women's body to infertility. The process starts as the menstrual cycle ceases. People may see Menopause as a health issue rather than the natural process it is. This perspective comes from the many unpleasant and sometimes extreme psychological and emotional health-related side-effects that may or may not come along with entering into Menopause.
The root of the word Menopause comes from the Greek words "pausis," meaning "pause," and the word "mēn," meaning month. So together, the literal translation is "end of monthly cycles."
Each person may have very different symptomology and experience them to varying degrees, from very low to extreme. In addition, menopausal symptoms may change or become more or less acute during this process.
Am I old enough to be experiencing Menopausal effects?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Natural Menopause can begin between 40 and 58 years of age, with the average onset being 51. However, be aware that certain medical conditions, medical treatments, or genetics can cause earlier natural Menopausal onset. For example, if a woman must undergo a hysterectomy, this would cause the onset of Menopause regardless of age.
The three stages to the process of Natural Menopause
Perimenopause is the transition time before the onset of Menopause, including 12 months after her last period.
Menopause begins 12 months after your final menstruation or when menstruation has been stopped clinically.
Post menopause is the period after the Menopausal transition has finished. Determining your state between Menopausal and postmenopausal can be difficult. According to a study published in JAMA, the average menopause duration is 4.5 years.
What is Perimenopause?
This term means "around menopause" and refers to your body's natural transition to a Menopausal state, leading to the end of reproduction.
Perimenopause may begin at many different ages, but noticeable signs of progression will appear in your early forties. Some women may experience the transition into Menopause as early as their thirties, but this is less common.
At this point of the body's transition into Menopause may cause drastic changes in estrogen levels. These fluctuations can cause your menstrual cycles to change and even lack ovulation.
Some women may begin to feel some Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, or vaginal dryness.
What is Post menopause
Post menopause is the period after a woman has reached Menopause. The Menopause indication is when a woman misses 12 consecutive periods. This process usually occurs around the age of 51 but can start in the 40, or later 50's in some cases. At this point, a woman can no longer conceive but may continue to be affected by the effects that begin in perimenopause.
Continued Menopausal symptoms
The more common symptoms women will experience during their Menopause are:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- mood swings
- foggy brain
- weight gain
Sadly for many individuals, these symptoms may continue postmenopausal for many years. In most cases, the symptoms will be less drastic and dissipate year by year. However, for some women, the symptoms may be permanent.
Postmenopausal Symptoms may include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Urinary incontinence
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Moodiness, irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Weight gain
The symptoms can easily be traced back to less estrogen and progesterone being produced. This process happens gradually over time, but premature or sudden infertility can occur due to:
- surgical hysterectomy where the uterus and ovaries have been removed
- primary ovarian insufficiency related to lower production of reproductive hormones before the age of 40
- chemotherapy and radiation may cause a stop reduction in periods
- medications can prevent the production of reproduction hormones from preventing or reducing bleeding during periods.
Many women will find that their Menopausal side effects will begin to lower, though women can experience some effects like hot flashes for the rest of their lives.
Common Menopause Side Effects
Hot flashes or night sweats?
Hot flashes are a sudden and extreme feeling of heat not caused by the environmental temperatures around you. The hot flash may reach its maximum intensity almost instantly or climb steadily over a short period.
The first signs of Menopausal hot flashes will appear as red or warm skin on your face, neck, and chest as a flood of blood rushes into your capillaries. The hot flash can cause almost instant perfuse sweating. Hot flashes experienced during the night are called night sweats and may cause you to wake up.
Other related symptoms
- a fast heartbeat
- a heartbeat that may feel uneven
- shaking of extremities
- a feeling of dizziness
Estimates from the U.S. National Library of Medicine estimate that a woman may experience hot flashes or cold flashes for an average of 5.2 years.
Sleep disturbances due to Perimenopause, Menopause or Post Menopause
Women may experience new or worsening sleep disturbances during Menopause which may be related to anxiety, night sweats, or increased urgency to urinate.
Most sleep issues can be dealt with efficiently, but more severe cases may require a visit to your doctor for treatments.
Hot Flashes and Sleep
Women most often complain of hot flashes at night, which can make sleeping miserable at the very least. In addition, some women can sweat through multiple changes of clothing and even sheets during the night. The heat and sweat are more than enough to wake a woman from a deep sleep repeatedly.
In many situations, a woman is not woken by the hot flash but by a secondary occurrence immediately before the hot flash begins. Changes in the brain trigger hot flashes, and those changes may be the cause of the awakening disturbance.
Grace Weiwei Pien, M.D., M.S.C.E., a well-known physician, is quoted as stating, "Even women who don't report sleep disturbances from hot flashes often say that they just have more trouble sleeping than they did before menopause."
Menopausal Sleep Disruptors
There are other dramatic causes for sleep disturbance in Menopausal women. For example, the loss or reduction of reproduction hormones can trigger sleep apnea which intern causes women to feel fatigued during waking hours.
Dr. Pien says that "postmenopausal women are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than premenopausal women." Therefore, women experiencing fatigue may believe that it is related to Menopause and not seek treatment. Even when seeking treatment, sleep apnea symptoms are often less noticeable than sleep apnea in men, so that the diagnosis may be missed.
Mood disorders triggered by Menopause may also contribute to sleep disturbances of insomnia. In addition, depression and anxiety can often create sleep issues for the sufferer.
Issues with incontinence
As estrogen levels drop, bladder leakage or incontinence can become an issue. For example, you may experience the urge to urinate more often or more urgently, or you may leak urine when you laugh, cough, or work out.
During this hormone imbalance, many women will experience mild to moderate emotional issues ranging from depression, anxiety, low mood, low energy, and irritability.
Sudden hormonal changes can result in fast onset depression or anxiety, which can appear for no particular reason. In addition, emotional changes are usually compounded by sleep disturbance, making dealing with these emotional changes difficult.
Further changes to a women's sex drive brought on by her changing hormone balance may create distress, such as lower libido and lower fertility, increasing depressive feelings.
Though feelings of sadness, irritability or low energy are a typical result of Menopause, they may not indicate that they are experiencing depression; if a low mood extends for more than two weeks, then it's recommended that you see your doctor to discuss treatment for depression.
Issues with focus and learning
Starting in Perimenopause, two-thirds of women may begin to experience difficulty concentrating and experience short-term memory loss issues. However, these issues are generally minor in most, with a small percentage experiencing significant problems.
Menopause may induce physical changes in your body, such as:
- fat building up around your stomach
- weight gain
- hair color and texture changes
- breast tenderness
- breast size-reduction
- urinary incontinence
Not all changes in your body can be pinned on Menopause as lifestyle choices may also cause similar issues.
Increased risk of some health conditions
Once you have entered into Menopause, your risk of some health issues can increase. However, these risks are associated with hormone changes and not necessarily the mechanism of Menopause.
Osteoporosis: A long-term condition that slowly reduces bone strength and density. It is recommended that women supplement their diet with vitamin D and eat more calcium-rich foods to counteract the progression.
No woman wants to hear that she has Osteoporosis, and they have reason to feel that way. Osteoporosis is a severe but treatable bone disease triggered by many medical conditions, age, or medications. In this case, the culprit we are talking about is Menopause.
Menopausal women may begin to develop weaker bone strength due to calcium bone density loss. When someone has severe Osteoporosis, even small falls or and minor bumps could cause fractures.
When bones affected by Osteoporosis are viewed under a microscope, the bone structure will show visible density loss in the honeycomb structure of the bone.
Osteoporosis may limit mobility, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression. Additionally, twenty percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from either complication related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it. Many patients require long-term nursing home care.
Cardiovascular disease: According to the American Heart Association, replacing estrogen due to a decline in natural hormone levels may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Replacement therapy does not lower the risk. The heart benefits from the cardioprotective effect that estrogens provide. As your levels of these hormones are reduced, that protective effect is lowered. As the estrogens reside even more, you may have issues with cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Breast cancer: Some breast cancers have an increased likelihood after Menopause. This risk is related to hormonal changes and not the process of Menopause.
Treatment Options for Menopause
Menopause should not be thought of as a health condition but rather a natural process. However, for women who experience uncomfortable levels of side effects, there are medical and naturopathic treatments and lifestyle changes that can reduce the impact.
A doctor may prescribe hormone therapy to help balance your body's hormone levels by providing supplemental estrogen and progesterone. The treatment will generally be applied as a cream for absorption into the bloodstream.
Hormone replacement therapy has risks and can increase the likelihood of specific diseases and conditions. Therefore, doctors will screen out women for treatment based on other risk factors such as:
- heart disease
- blood clotting history
- high triglyceride levels in your blood
- gallbladder disease
- liver disease
- breast cancer
Though you can receive many medical therapies from your doctor, some safe and straightforward supplements are available over the counter that can significantly reduce Menopausal symptoms. Natural products such as EZ Esteo by Edicanaturals.com are a great example. Using quality sourced ingredients such as:
- Giant Angelica Extract
- Ginger Extract
- Green Coffee Bean
- Sok-dan Extract
- Wilford's Cynanchum
A natural supplement product like EZ Estro coupled with a healthy lifestyle and diet will significantly reduce your symptoms.
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Other Treatment Options
Women who do not want to risk replacement therapy or women with risk factors for replacement therapy have other options to help alleviate symptoms such as:
- over-the-counter gels for vaginal dryness
- prescription pills and creams for vaginal dryness
- low-dose birth control pills for hot flash reduction and mood changes
- Low-dose antidepressants may help hot flashes even in those not experiencing depression
- naturopathic treatments with natural ingredients to treat depression, hot flashes, and a variety of other menopausal symptoms
Lifestyle Changes Can Make A Big Difference
The following is a list of changes you can make in your lifestyle that will significantly affect any stage of Menopause.
- Regular exercise, even walking, will reduce side effects while decreasing your risk for related health issues.
- Meditation and other relaxation techniques can help reduce anxiety and depression associated with fluctuating hormone levels.
- A balanced and healthy diet focusing on whole and natural foods can reduce the risk of health conditions.
- There are so many reasons to quit smoking but smoking in women is higher during Menopause.
- Reduction of alcohol consumption
- Practice good sleeping habits and sleep hygiene.
- Kegel exercises can significantly help to strengthen the pelvic floor
- Be open with your friends and family about how you are feeling
- Explore new options for enjoying intimacy
- Keep your sex life active
During mid-age, women may experience multiple transitions at once. They can begin Menopause and have to deal with the various effects of that natural process. Still, they may also be impacted by work, relationships, and even children moving away. These additional factors can make this time very difficult for some women.
It's essential to communicate your feelings with your family, friends, and doctor. You are not alone, and there are options to assist you during this time of change.
Focus more time on yourself doing things that make you feel good. Exercise more, eat better and seek out information from your doctor if you are concerned.
You aren't limited to hormone replacement therapy and its risks. There are naturopathic supplements that can significantly reduce the effects of your transition.