September is Healthy Aging Month, and menopause is a common women’s health challenges you may experience as you get older. Menopause is a natural biological process that nearly every woman will go through. It can be a difficult time full of changes, but Community Access Network gynecologists are here to support you every step of the way.
An Overview of Menopause
Menopause is a natural stage of life in which the production of eggs and female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, slows, eventually coming to a complete stop. The process is typically gradual, and Gynecologists usually advise and treat women based on what stage of menopause they are in. Most women will go through menopause between ages 45-55, though some women begin to experience symptoms as early as their thirties or as late as their sixties.
There are three different stages of menopause: premenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Each stage brings unique symptoms, but understanding what to expect is the first step in feeling prepared and empowered.
Stages of Menopause
What Is Premenopause?
Premenopause marks the beginning stages that precede menopause when hormone levels begin to fluctuate. Premenopause can last anywhere from six months to three years. Symptoms vary for each woman, but some common ones include:
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- Changes in menstrual cycles
- Anxiety and mood swings
- Vaginal dryness (especially during sexual intercourse)
- Irregular periods with increased cramping or pain on one side of your body.
Identifying if you are experiencing premenopause can be challenging. Your gynecologist may be able to check hormone levels to determine if you are in premenopause, but results can be inconclusive since hormone levels at this stage are unpredictable. However, if your symptoms align with premenopause, your physician may be able to start providing guidance and a treatment plan including adjusting birth control, changing diets, and incorporating more exercise.
Menopause marks the end stages of menopause when hormone levels are at their lowest levels and periods stop occurring. During menopause, ovaries stop producing eggs and estrogen and you are no longer able to conceive biological children. At this stage, symptoms are similar to those during premenopause and are typically more intense. Women may also start to experience weight gain, sleep problems, and changes in urinary patterns. Menopause lasts for twelve consecutive missed periods (so usually twelve months). After that, a woman will enter postmenopause.
What Is Postmenopause?
Postmenopause is the stage of life that follows menopause when hormone levels are depleted. As mentioned, postmenopause does not occur until a woman has missed 12 consecutive menstrual periods. During postmenopause, women experience a changes in sex drive, increased hot flashes or night sweats (though they may still occur), mood swings, and vaginal dryness. Women will continue to go through postmenopausal symptoms for about ten years on average, though some women have been known to experience symptoms as long as twenty years.
Treating and Managing Stages of Menopause
One of the most challenging aspects of menopause is that it can feel isolating or lonely—you may not know what others are going through and they might not understand what’s happening with your body. Hormonal changes can be tough to navigate. However, Community Access Network gynecologists are here for support every step of the way. During menopause, it is important to be in contact with your healthcare provider so that they can assess what stage you are in and provide guidance for coping mechanisms or treatments. If you have any questions about menopause and its stages, contact us today to schedule an appointment. We can talk through it together, and come up with a plan that works for you.