Menopause

Overview

Menopause marks the time at the end of your menstrual cycles, it officially starts after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. The average age for menopause in the US is 51, but it can happen as early as your 40s. Menopause is a natural biological process that does not need treatment, though the physical and emotional symptoms can lower you energy, disrupt your sleep, or affect your emotional health. There are many different treatments available from hormone therapy to lifestyle adjustments.

Signs and Symptoms

In the months and years leading to menopause (perimenopause), you could encounter these symptoms and signs: vaginal dryness, chills, irregular periods, hot flashes, loss of breast fullness, mood changes, sleep problems, night sweats, thinning hair, weight gain and slowed metabolism, dry skin.

Symptoms are different for every woman, including changes in menstruation. Most likely you will notice some irregularity in your periods before they stop.

During perimenopause it is common to skip periods, often you will skip one month and then return or skip a few months at a time and then have a few months of regular menstruation. Periods tend to happen more closely together. Though despite irregular periods it is possible to get pregnant, if you’ve skipped a period but aren’t sure if you’re starting menopause consider a pregnancy test.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are many possible triggers for menopause. It can be due to the natural decline of reproductive hormones. As you move into your late 30s your ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone and your fertility declines. By the age of 51 (on average) your ovaries will stop producing eggs and you will cease to have periods. A hysterectomy that removes your uterus and ovaries will cause immediate menopause. You’re more likely to have hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause (which, can be more severe because the hormonal changes happen immediately as opposed to over several years) and your periods will stop. Other causes include primary ovarian insufficiency, and chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

After you start menopause risks of certain complications can increase. You could experience: urinary incontinence, osteoporosis, weight gain, sexual function issues, or cardiovascular disease. 

Menopause is a natural process that does not require medical treatment so instead focus on treating and relieving your symptoms or preventing and managing chronic health conditions that can occur with aging. Treatments may include: vaginal estrogen, hormone therapy, low-dose antidepressants, Clonidine, Gabapentin, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about the different forms of treatment available and the risks and benefits involved in different treatment forms.