Knowing what to expect makes the experience far less tiring. Here's what happens when you approach your menstrual cycle's finish line.
The menstrual cycle is one of the most natural things to occur in a woman’s life. As you grow old, your period evolves with you. And after decades of having a love-hate relationship with your period, it will eventually be time for you to say farewell to the whole endeavor. But before that, there are some major effects that will take over your body. Menopause may not be something you look forward to, but when you know what to expect, it makes the whole thing easier to deal with. Dr. Lauren Streicher, author and ob-gyn says “The thing I always say about perimenopause symptoms is the one thing that’s predictable is that nothing is predictable." Here are the most important things about menopause that every woman must know:
As you age, your ovaries will not function like before. The level of estrogen and other hormones in your body will start dipping down, because of the reduced functioning of your ovaries. However, your periods can get erratic and your periods can get unpredictable, so one missed period in your early 50s doesn’t confirm that you have reached menopause, and you still have the chances of getting pregnant. A woman is only deemed to be in menopause after completing 12 months of no periods.
Your body might take several years to transition into the phase of menopause. During this time, irregular periods and other symptoms become part of this transition. In America, it is said that the average age for menopause is 52. The general age bracket is 45 to 58 and the majority of women tend to have it between these ages. Although this is not a sure way of confirming when you might experience menopause, it could be possible that you develop symptoms around the same age your mother developed them.
The number of times you have given birth can affect your menopause too. If you have been pregnant before, it could slow down your transition into menopause. This would mean that if you haven’t naturally had children earlier, your symptoms could show up earlier. Another factor that studies are linking with early menopause is smoking. It is possible that women who smoke can experience menopause two years earlier than women who don’t smoke generally.
If you have had to undergo medical treatment where your ovaries were surgically removed, this would mean that you undergo induced menopause instead of the natural transition with age. Other cases where you might experience induced menopause would be when you undergo chemotherapy or radiation and this affects your ovaries. Another way of induced menopause would be if you take medications for certain conditions or ailments and intentionally inducing menopause becomes part of the treatment.
It is most likely that you will experience the effects of the transition during your 30s and 40s. This is the period known as perimenopause, and the most typical sign is an unusual change in your menstrual cycle. During this time, your ovaries function differently and the level of estrogen released in your body starts changing. You might notice that you missed your period one month. Sometimes you might find that your period is going on for longer or shorter than it normally does, or there might be a change in the flow. Note that while these changes are normal when you are facing perimenopause, these could also be effects of other changes in your body or other conditions that you might not be aware of. It’s always best to keep in touch with your doctor and report such changes.
One of the common symptoms of menopause is experiencing hot flashes, which is once again an effect of the fluctuating levels of estrogen in your body. Be aware that hot flashes might be experienced even after menopause. If you’re wondering what a hot flash is, it is a rush of heat which you are likely to feel in your entire body or the upper half. It is difficult to predict the number of times it might happen during the day or the length of each flash. You might experience them a few times an hour, or a day, or even just a couple of times a week. In terms of the duration, one hot flash can last for 30 seconds or go up to 10 minutes. Other effects of a hot flash would be your face and neck feeling flushed. You might also notice red blotches on your arms, back, and your chest. Some sources say that hot flashes can occur even 14 years after a woman has undergone menopause. One way to deal with hot flashes is to monitor them; see what triggers them, write them down and avoid them. For instance, if you notice that you have hot flashes after having spicy food, avoid them. Alcohol, caffeine, stress and even hot weather could be reasons behind your hot flash.
It is said that women often claim to experience moodiness, dullness, anxiety, and stress during the menopause transition. Women also report problems with concentration and memory. Good sleep, a healthy diet, and enough physical activity could be your answers to improving your memory. Don’t stop socializing or reduce your trips to those Sunday neighborhood lunches. It’s important to stay socially active as it can slow down memory loss and reduce your risk of being diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Along with being socially active, it’s essential to be mentally active as well, like joining a new class, doing the daily puzzle or developing other skills. If you notice that the memory loss and lack of focus is getting out of hand, immediately consult a doctor.
As you cross the age of 35, both men and women tend to lose some amount of bone which is normal. However, menopause can drastically impact and accelerate bone loss in the 4-8 years that follow the menopausal transition. This is one of the reasons why women are 80% more likely than men in America to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. Take extra care of your bones because this symptom can make you more prone to developing this condition or even bone fractures. It is your hip, wrist, and spine that are most vulnerable.
Keep a vaginal moisturizer ready during this time because you might notice that your vaginal tissue is getting drier and thinner. Some of the unpleasant feelings include itching, burning, and pain. Be cautious if you are having sex because it can be painful and cause small cuts and tears in the area. You can ask your doctor for other prescriptive medicines that can be taken during this time.