The “change of life” doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, menopause is a years-long process that begins with a transitional phase of steadily declining hormone levels (perimenopause), proceeds to the official end of female fertility 12 months after your last period (menopause), and continues to affect your health in your remaining years of life (postmenopause).
Many women find themselves unprepared for the bothersome symptoms that can arrive with menopause. Aside from ending their ability to get pregnant, many women also know very little about the other health effects menopause can cause.
At Panhandle Obstetrics and Gynecology in Amarillo, Texas, our seasoned team of women’s health experts can help you manage menopause-related symptoms, protect your health, and navigate your new normal. Read on to learn what you might expect from menopause — and how you can thrive through this major life change.
Menopause is a multi-year process that occurs as your aging ovaries gradually release lower levels of estrogen and progesterone, the reproductive hormones that regulate menstruation and make pregnancy possible. It transpires in three phases:
You continue to menstruate during this transitionary stage that leads to menopause, but your gradually declining hormone levels cause your period — and your body — to start changing. Most women enter perimenopause in their 40s and remain in this stage for about 7 years.
You’ve officially reached menopause — or the conclusion of menstruation and the inability to become pregnant — 12 months after your final period. In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51 years old.
The postmenopause phase is all your remaining years of life beyond menopause. With your reproductive hormone levels in permanent retreat, your chances of developing certain health conditions — including heart disease and osteoporosis — increase.
Menopause isn’t a disease, disorder, or chronic condition; it’s simply a normal part of aging. Still, the process affects everyone differently — some women don’t experience problematic symptoms, while others develop a variety of bothersome changes. Menopause can cause:
As your estrogen levels progressively decline through perimenopause, your metabolism may slow down and make you more vulnerable to easy weight gain as well as hot or cold flashes or night sweats. Menopause-driven hormone changes can also give rise to dry skin, thinning hair, persistent joint pain, and urinary incontinence.
Menopause can make you feel moody and heighten your risk of developing depression or anxiety; it can also make it harder to get a good night’s sleep and leave you with diminished energy levels during the day.
From perimenopause through postmenopause, low estrogen levels can have a profound effect on your sexual health. You may experience persistent vaginal dryness or irritation, a diminished sex drive, eroded sexual confidence, or all the above.
Estrogen has a protective effect on heart and bone health. Lower, postmenopause estrogen levels are associated with a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke) as well as osteoporosis, or a rapid loss of bone density and an increased risk of bone fractures.
Menopause may conclude your fertility, but it doesn’t have to sabotage your health, diminish your vitality, or hijack your sex life. The following strategies can help you thrive through menopause and beyond:
Whether you’ve got drier skin, you have trouble sleeping, you’re plagued by hot flashes, or you’ve been gaining more weight than you’d like, mild to moderate menopause symptoms can often be relieved with a few simple lifestyle changes.
Support your body by making wholesome, heart-healthy dietary choices, keeping yourself well hydrated, managing your daily stress levels, and staying physically active with a well-rounded fitness routine that includes strength exercises, endurance activities, and stretching.
When menopause symptoms are too severe to be fully offset by lifestyle changes, BioTE® hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help. Using a blend of plant-based, bioidentical hormones made just for you, HRT aims to restore hormonal balance, relieve bothersome symptoms, and protect your health.
If vaginal dryness and discomfort are interfering with your postmenopausal sex life, MonaLisa Touch® laser therapy may be the perfect solution. This quick and painless treatment can help restore your normal lubrication response and resolve mild urinary stress incontinence.
Regular well-woman exams can help you stay on top of your health through menopause and beyond. Our women’s wellness experts use age-specific health screenings to catch problems early, when they’re easier to treat; they also help you manage chronic conditions so you can stay active and vital for life.
If you’re ready to thrive through every stage of menopause, we can help. Call our office at 806-359-5468 to learn more or schedule a visit at Panhandle Obstetrics and Gynecology today.