Menopause is not easy. But once you're done with it, the other symptoms improve and life definitely gets better.
Your feelings are all over the place and you suddenly end up having a hot flash. You can't really put a finger on what exactly is wrong. If this sounds familiar, you might be going through menopause.
Breaking the word itself down to two words means that there is going to be a pause from your period cycles, but to say how long that pause will last is quite difficult.
1. What is menopause?
Technically, menopause begins after a woman’s final menstrual period, said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of Mayo Clinic Women’s Health. But since there is no indication that a particular cycle will be your last one, healthcare providers wait for about a year of no periods to diagnose you with menopause.
“Then, you’re postmenopausal for the rest of your life,” which may be as much as one-third to one-half of a woman’s life span, she noted, according to the New York Times.
2. When does it start for women?
The average age for the final menstrual period in women is considered to be 52, but anything above 45 is considered normal. About 95 percent of women reach this milestone by age 55, said Dr. Faubion, who is also the medical director of the North American Menopause Society.
3. When do menopausal symptoms begin?
Basically, symptoms of menopause can begin several years before a woman’s final period and continue for years afterward. The intensity and duration of symptoms can vary a great deal, Dr. Faubion noted; some women experience little bother and others find that symptoms interfere significantly with their lives and work.
The first sign is when your periods change, they could be longer or shorter. It could be closer or apart, and bleeding may be lighter or heavier, said Siobán Harlow, director of the Center for Midlife Science at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
4. Are these changes predictable?
These changes can be unpredictable, and women who experience heavier periods might experience a dangerous amount of blood loss, warranting medical care, Dr. Harlow said.
At the same time, fluctuations in estrogen can cause someone to “start having hot flashes and night sweats, or get a migraine headache, or not sleep well, or feel super irritable,” Dr. Faubion said. But then they might have a few normal cycles before experiencing this all over again.
5. When does the menopausal transition happen?
Once you go about two months without bleeding, you’re in what’s known as the late menopausal transition. After this, most women will have their final period within two years, said Dr. Nanette Santoro, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In this stage, “symptoms tend to ramp up, so if they were annoying in the early transition, they get a little worse,” she said.
6. What are the most common symptoms associated with menopause?
Hot flashes, sometimes accompanied by night sweats, are among the most common menopausal symptoms, experienced by as many as 80 percent of women. In one 2015 study of about 1,500 U.S. women who experienced frequent hot flashes or night sweats, these symptoms lasted for an average of 7.4 years in total. It usually starts several years before their final period and continues for an average of 4.5 years afterward.
Women who began experiencing hot flashes earlier in the menopausal transition had to put up with these symptoms for longer, a total of 11.8 years on average. “If it begins early, it can be a very long, annoying menopause,” Dr. Santoro said, adding, “you may want to seek help sooner rather than later.”
An array of other symptoms can also occur with the menopausal transition, which includes depression, anxiety, brain fog, changes to skin and hair, joint pain, and vaginal dryness.
7. Where can you seek help?
A health care provider who is well-versed in menopause could actually help you navigate treatment options, including hormone therapy, which will eventually make symptoms much more manageable.
There are certain symptoms, like vaginal dryness, accompanied by painful sex, greater urinary urgency, and sometimes more frequent urinary tract infections, which only get worse with time, so it is best to seek treatment promptly.
8. Does menopause appear different for people from different races?
Yes, and the 2015 study concluded that women of Japanese and Chinese descent had the shortest duration of hot flash symptoms (an average of 4.8 and 5.4 years, respectively), and Black women had the longest, with an average of 10.1 years.
A study by Dr. Harlow and her colleagues reviewed the evidence that Black women in the United States also had, on average, earlier menopause and a greater incidence of depression and sleep disturbance associated with menopause in comparison to white women.
9. When does one get over menopause and its symptoms?
In most women, symptoms will eventually subside after an average of 7 to 9 years, but about a third of women will have symptoms for a decade or longer, Dr. Faubion said.
Even though menopause is a lifelong thing, you’ll know you’re done with the changes of menopause when its other symptoms improve. “They just go away,” and some women describe a feeling of “postmenopausal zest” at this stage, Dr. Santoro said.
By the time a woman hits age 65 or 70, the hormonal fluctuations settle and they will be dealing more with the changes of aging than with changes in reproductive hormones.
10. Is there anything good about menopause?
Surprisingly, yes. Painful conditions like fibroids and endometriosis often improve, for example, and you no longer need to worry about periods or getting pregnant, Dr. Faubion said while adding that sexually transmitted diseases can affect anyone.
Honestly, it is just like life, there will be ups and downs, but it will eventually get better.
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Анастасия ФризенDisclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.