Women are born with a fixed number of eggs stored in their ovaries. The ovaries also produce the hormones that control ovulation and menstruation. When the ovaries no longer release eggs, menstruation stops, and menopause begins. The menopause cycle has 3 phases:
- Perimenopause, which begins several years before menopause. It’s due to the reduction in estrogen production.
- Menopause, a point 12 months after the last menstrual period.
- Postmenopause, the period when menopausal symptoms fade for most women. Risks to health due to the loss of estrogen start to rise.
What are menopausal symptoms?
These symptoms usually begin in the perimenopause phase and continue until the start of postmenopause. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, or to the same degree. The most common include:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Dryness of the vagina
- Problems with sleeping and changes in mood
- Slowed metabolism and accompanying weight gain
- Dry skin and thin hair
- Decreasing breast fullness
Missed periods in the perimenopausal phase are common. In fact, continuing regular periods up to last are very rare. Despite missed periods, pregnancy remains possible. When symptoms start to appear, schedule a visit with FMAA to help manage the changes that menopause creates.
Does menopause lead to other disorders?
After menopause, risk factors for other conditions increase. Postmenopausal women are more prone to experience:
- Cardiovascular disease – typical heart-friendly practices such as increased activity, and cholesterol and diet management help offset some risk.
- Urinary incontinence – the tissue of the pelvis loses elasticity. Both urge and stress incontinence may result.
- Osteoporosis – bone density often decreases quickly in the first years after menopause. This may lead to brittle and easily broken bones.
- Weight gain – with the body’s systems requiring fewer resources for the demands of the menstrual cycle, metabolism slows, and weight gain may result, which may also contribute to heart disease.
- Sexual dysfunction – sensation may be lost, contributing to lower libido and changes to the vaginal tissue may increase dryness and discomfort.