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Entering Menopause


What are the stages of menopause?

Menopause is only one of several stages in the reproductive life of a woman. The whole menopause transition is divided into four main stages known as:

1. Premature Menopause- menopause that happens before the age of 40, whether it is natural or induced. Women who enter menopause early get symptoms similar to those of natural menopause, like hot flashes, emotional problems, vaginal dryness, and decreased sex drive. For some women with early menopause, these symptoms are severe. Also, women who have early menopause tend to get weaker bones faster than women who enter menopause later in life. This raises their chances of getting osteoporosis and breaking a bone.
Premature menopause can happen for the following reasons: chromosome defects, genetics, autoimmune diseases, surgery to remove the ovaries, or chemotherapy or pelvic radiation treatments for cancer.

2. Pre-Menopause - refers to the entirety of a woman's life from her first to her last regular menstrual period. It is best defined as a time of "normal" reproductive function in a woman.

3. Perimenopause - means "around menopause" and is a transitional stage of two to ten years before complete cessation of the menstrual period and is usually experienced by women from 35 to 50 years of age. This stage of menopause is characterized by hormone fluctuations, which cause the typical menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Perimenopause marks the time when your body begins the transition to menopause. It includes the years leading up to menopause — anywhere from two to eight years — plus the first year after your final period. There is no way to tell in advance how long it will last or how long it will take you to go through it. It's a natural part of aging that signals the ending of your reproductive years.

4. Menopause - represents the end stage of a natural transition in a woman's reproductive life. Menopause is the point at which estrogen and progesterone production decreases permanently to very low levels. The ovaries stop producing eggs, and a woman is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
Menopause is a normal change in a woman's life when her period stops. It is often called the "change of life." During perimenopause, a woman's body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This often happens between the ages of 45 and 55 years old. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row, and there are no other causes for this change.
As you near menopause, you may have symptoms from the changes your body is making. Many women wonder if these changes are normal, and many are confused about how to treat their symptoms. You can feel better by learning all you can about menopause, and talking with your doctor about your health and your symptoms. If you want to treat your symptoms, your doctor can tell you more about your options and help you make the best treatment choices.

5. Postmenopause - refers to a woman's time of life after menopause has occurred. It is generally believed that the postmenopausal phase begins when 12 full months have passed since the last menstrual period. From here a woman will be postmenopausal for the rest of her life.

How do I know if I am entering menopause? What are the signs?

Every woman's period will stop at menopause. Some women have no other symptoms. But many women notice changes in body, mind, and mood at this stage of life. We don’t always know if these changes are related to menopause, aging, or both.
Some changes you might notice include:
  • Changes in your period. The time between periods and the flow from month to month may be different.
  • Abnormal bleeding or "spotting." This is common as you near menopause. But if your periods have stopped for 12 months in a row, and you still have "spotting," you should talk to your doctor to rule out serious causes, like cancer.
  • Night sweats. Hot flashes that occur while a woman is sleeping and cause her to perspire. They can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Sleeping problems. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, health, and ability to cope with everyday stress.
  • Vaginal changes. The vagina may become dry and thin, and sex and vaginal exams may be painful. You also might get more vaginal infections.
  • Thinning of your bones. This may lead to loss of height and bone breaks (osteoporosis).
  • Emotional changes. May include mood swings, sadness, tearfulness, and irritability. Although menopause does not cause depression, women are at a higher risk of depression in the years leading up to menopause. Some researchers think that the decrease in estrogen levels plays a role in the onset of depression in some women. Also, lack of sleep can strain a woman’s emotional health.
  • Urinary problems. You may have leaking, burning or pain when urinating, or leaking when sneezing, coughing, or laughing.
  • Problems with memory and staying focused. You may notice you are more forgetful or have trouble concentrating.
  • Sex drive decreases. You may have less interest in sex and changes in sexual response.
  • Weight fluctuation. Weight gain or increase in body fat around your waist.
  • Hair loss or thinning. Hair thinning or loss is a problem for some women.

My hot flashes aren’t as intense as the ones my friends describe. They’re actually more ‘warm’ than ‘hot’. Is this normal?

While hot flashes (or flushes) are very common in perimenopause, not all women experience them, and not all flashes are of the same intensity. Hot flashes can be as mild as a light blush or severe enough to wake you from a sound sleep (called night sweats). Most hot flashes last 30 seconds to 5 minutes. They usually disappear within a few years after menopause. However, up to 10-15% of women experience hot flashes for years.

Is bleeding after menopause normal?

Changes in bleeding are normal as you near menopause. There are also other common causes of bleeding in the years after menopause. The decline in your body's estrogen levels can cause tissues lining the vagina to become thin, dry, and less elastic. Sometimes this lining can become broken or easily inflamed and bleed. It can also become injured during sex or even during a pelvic exam.
Once you've reached menopause, though, you should report any bleeding that you have to your HCP. Uterine bleeding after menopause could be a sign of other health problems.

Note: The information in these FAQs has been compiled from reputable sources, which we have cited for each question. Sanita sal does not hold responsibility for the accuracy of the content, nor any behaviors taken with regard to the FAQs.
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