With the onset of menopause comes the liberation of monthly menstrual cramps and unplanned pregnancy. Menopause is referred to as the "big change," but your body is transitioning into this phase of your life before that day comes. This is the reason you begin to have early symptoms. Everyone views menopause differently. Some women say that it gives them a sexual freedom that they never knew before and others mourn their infertility. Menopause is all about change and you should know what to expect.
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Sometime between the ages of 45 and 55, most women will have their last menstrual period. Menopause is the time in a woman's life when the ovaries stop producing eggs. Menstruation completely stops and she can no longer reproduce. Every woman goes through this change and it should not be confused with an illness. This is a normal process of ageing. Menopause causes physiological changes in the body that can affect a woman physically and emotionally. Early signs and symptoms of menopause are caused by a constant fluctuation of hormones.
There are three stages of menopause. Perimenopause is the first stage and signals that your reproductive system is slowly shutting down. Your ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen and progesterone. Women generally go through this stage around their late 40s to mid 50s. Other women begin to notice early signs of menopause in their 30s. At the end of perimenopause and up to the point of menopause, there is a rapid drop in oestrogen. The second stage is menopause. Menopause is final when a woman does not have a period for 12 consecutive months. During this time, a women can have many different symptoms but each women is affected by menopause differently. Some women barely notice it and others have nightmarish symptoms. Postmenopause is the last stage and it refers to the years after a woman has gone through menopause. There are increased health risks during this time such as heart attack and stroke.
Most women notice early signs before menopause actually occurs. Women who have predictable menstrual cycles will likely notice these changes the soonest. Cycles may become longer or shorter. Menstrual bleeding can be heavier or lighter. Skipped or late periods are very common before menopause. For those who have irregular menstrual cycles, it can be more difficult to tell. A woman can still get pregnant during perimenopause. Missed periods may not signify menopause. A woman may also have hot flushes from time to time. She may blame this on her surroundings or wearing too many clothes. Sexual intercourse may become uncomfortable because the vaginal lining gradually thins and becomes less elastic. This is due to the oestrogen levels that are shifting. In addition, she may also have drastic changes in her moods. She can feel anxious, irritable, disoriented and depressed. Her life may be fulfilling and yet she is full of sadness and discontent. Loss of sleep is also common because of hot flushes or insomnia. She will notice that her heart may palpitate, which is an abnormal sensation that feels as if the heart is pounding or beating too rapidly. This strange sensation is felt in the throat area, neck or chest. Stress and anxiety can make heart palpitations worse.
A common myth about menopause is that life is over and it is all downhill afterward. This is not true. Menopause should be celebrated because it is the beginning of another chapter of life. Women live into their late 70s and beyond, so once you hit menopause, you can still have many years ahead of you. You no longer have to worry about PMS symptoms, cramping, bloating or running out of tampons. Your sex life may improve because you don't need to worry about getting pregnant. Once you recognise the early signs of menopause, consult with your doctor to diminish symptoms. There is no reason to suffer through sweat baths or insomnia.
As you begin to experience perimenopause, your risk of osteoporosis increases. A woman is at risk when oestrogen levels begin to decline. Osteoporosis is a serious medical condition that causes a deterioration of bone mass and density. Fractures are more likely to occur. Women often do not know they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs in the mid to lower spine. Osteoporosis can cause devastating and permanent disability if it is not halted. Some women choose to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to restore oestrogen levels. This will help to slow down the progression of bone thinning and can help to increase the density of bones. Consult with your physician and discuss the benefits and serious risks of HRT.