Menopause is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility.
Menopause defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period. It is a natural process in a woman’s life marking the end of her reproductive years. This process causes the ovaries to produce fewer hormones that cause menstrual periods, which leads to irregular and eventually the end of menstruation altogether. The average age of the menopause is 51 but symptoms may begin well before this.
Menopause is broken down into three categories, perimenopause, or “pre” menopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Perimenopause is the time in which your body begins to move toward menopause. This period can range anywhere from two to eight years. During this time the levels of your reproductive hormones (estrogen and progesterone) can become imbalanced. Your menstrual cycles may lengthen or shorten, and you will begin to have menstrual cycles in which you don’t ovulate.
Menopause is reached once you have not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. This period is often associated with symptoms most often associated with menopause such as vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes or flushes), vaginal dryness, interruption of sleep, and mood swings. This period may last for several months or several years but eventually most symptoms resolve.
The Postmenopausal period is generally a period where most symptoms have resolved.
Worldwide, the life expectancy for women has increased and in the United States women can expect to live 80 years or more. It is estimate 30 million women in the US are now menopausal and that an additional 6 million women will reach this stage during this decade.
Most important, even though menopause is not an illness, you shouldn’t hesitate to get treatment if you’re having severe symptoms. Many treatments are available, from lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy.
Symptoms of Menopause
Even though Technically, you don’t actually “hit” menopause until it’s been one year since your final menstrual period, the signs and symptoms of menopause, often appear long before the one-year anniversary of your final period.
They may include:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes or flushes, Vasomotor Symptoms
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Increased abdominal fat
- Thinning hair
- Male Pattern Hair Growth
- Loss of sexual desire, Libido
- And others
Testing and Diagnosis of Menopause
Menopause is diagnosed by history and physical. Laboratory test to check your level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen (estradiol) may be done. As menopause occurs, FSH levels increase and estradiol levels decrease. These test help confirm menopause and rule out other possible causes of symptoms.