What is Menopause?
Women talk about “being menopausal” or “going through menopause”. But the fact is that menopause is defined as the moment a woman hasn't had a menstrual period for at least 12 consecutive months. Once that happens, you are considered to be post-menopausal. Whatever you call it, for most women menopause is a natural part of aging (although it's still called menopause if it comes much earlier due to surgery, such as a hysterectomy).
Perimenopause is the term used to describe the period leading up to this important milestone. Women can start experiencing the physical and emotional changes that come with menopause earlier, but for most of us, it is in our late 40s or early 50s when our monthly cycle begins to change. That's when a woman’s production of estrogen and progesterone becomes more unpredictable as the reservoir of "eggs" stored in the ovaries becomes smaller.
Each woman will experience menopause differently, but generally speaking fluctuating hormone levels can lead to symptoms such as irregular periods, night sweats, hot flashes, fatigue, aches and pains, and a change in sexual desire. Changes to the skin, our ability to control our bladders, vaginal health, sleep patterns, and new emotions also surface with the onset of menopause. Sometimes these symptoms are hardly noticeable. Sometimes they get in the way of normal day-to-day life.
You have options and choices
Women have choices about how they manage their menopause and its symptoms. For many, they decide to put themselves at the top of their “to do” list, focusing on eating well and improving their fitness level. Others reach out for the support of family and friends if they feel their moods shifting in ways that are upsetting or frightening. During this time in your life, talking openly with your health care providers is key to managing these new feelings and sensations. They have advice and information about lifestyle adjustments and treatment options, such as hormone therapy (HT), and non-hormonal or herbal therapies. They can help you make decisions for your personal situation.
Remember, every woman experiences menopause differently. Some have difficulties and others are symptom-free. Whatever your situation, there is something you can do. Start by getting more information on this web site, as well as through the resources you’ll find referenced here. You’ll learn more about what steps you can take to ease your transition to menopause.