Every woman’s experience with menopause is different. One woman may breeze through “the change,” barely realizing it’s happening. While another may suffer debilitating symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, sleep loss, hot flashes or night sweats. One woman may feel the effects of fluctuating hormones at age 40. Another may still be having monthly periods at 55.
How can you be sure when the change is happening to you? More importantly for some, how do you know when the change is over?
Fortunately, there are some vital telltale signs. What most people call menopause is actually a three-stage process:
Peri-menopause: Getting Ready
Since your early reproductive years, your ovaries have produced a steady mix of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Each hormone has played a role in your reproductive system, but estrogen has always been the at the forefront. Estrogen has regulated your monthly menstrual cycle. It has affected your psychological well-being, including your mood, sleep and sex drive. Estrogen has even helped the function of your urinary tract, your skin and vaginal tissues, your bones and heart, your brain and more.
During perimenopause, estrogen begins to withdraw, and your steady mix of hormones gets disrupted. That’s when things can start to get weird. Your periods may become unpredictable. Your bleeding may become quite heavy. Strange symptoms can crop up:
- Hot flashes — sudden sensations of heat that spread from your chest to your head, often followed by sweating or cold shivering. They may come with hot flushes, when your neck and face turn red.
- Night sweats — hot flashes that occur during sleep and cause perspiration.
- Difficulty sleeping — often related to hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal changes — including dryness and increased vulnerability to bladder infections.
- Mood changes — such as irritability, anxiety and mood swings.
- Sex drive — a reduced interest in sex that can be related to mood changes or vaginal dryness, which can make sex incredibly uncomfortable.
- Skin changes — including dryness, itching and loss of elasticity.
- Headaches/migraines — which can be aggravated by fluctuating hormones.
- Heart palpitations — manifestations of symptoms (e.g., hot flashes) in the autonomic system (e.g., the nerves and muscles that cause blood vessels to expand or contract).
- More hair on your face; thinning hair on your head.
- Forgetfulness/poor concentration — which can be linked to various conditions, including yo-yoing hormones, lack of sleep and increased stress.
Peri-menopause generally starts happening in a woman’s 40s, sometimes lasting as long as eight to 10 years. So if you’re in this stage, buckled up!
You won’t necessarily have symptoms that whole time — if you have them at all. For some women, symptoms begin their last few years of perimenopause, when estrogen plummets.
Menopause: The Transition
Actual menopause is your first 12 consecutive months without a period. It’s when your ovaries stop releasing eggs and drop almost all estrogen production.
Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. It’s timing is partly genetic. If women in your family tend to reach menopause in their early 40s, chances are you will too. Your lifestyle and medical history also are factors. For example, smokers and women with a chronic illness are more likely to reach menopause earlier.
Post menopause: A New Beginning
Postmenopause begins your “second adulthood,” once your reproductive years are complete.
The first five years of post menopause — which begin on that 13th consecutive month without a period — are most critical in terms of menopausal symptoms and bone loss.
During this time, women generally start hormone therapy, if they need it.
Should You Consider Hormone Therapy?
If you’re struggling with symptoms of “the change,” or if you’re just not feeling like your old self, see your doctor, or reach out to Revital to discuss your options.
Millions of women have found relief with hormone therapy, the only FDA-approved treatment for menopausal symptoms. Hormone therapy supplements your body with estrogen and progestogen that it’s no longer getting from your ovaries. It can be just enough to regulate certain body functions and relieve hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms. And while hormone therapy can come in a variety of forms, ReVital offers bioidential hormone replacement pellets to give you the most advanced experience as your body rebalances.
Whether or not you need hormone therapy, menopause is a natural part of aging. It’s not a disease or something to resist. In fact, many women welcome it – giving new meaning to “change is good.”