What is menopause?
Menopause is a normal and natural progression in life, generally occurring between the ages of 35-55. During the stages of menopause, the ovaries get smaller and stop producing estrogen and progesterone. The eggs within the ovaries become depleted and fertility begins to decline, with the body eventually no longer able to become pregnant.
Early menopause can occur due to certain events other than natural aging, such as after hysterectomy (where the uterus is removed), oophorectomy (where the ovaries are removed) or due to Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) when the ovaries become inactive or underactive.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
It’s important to remember that every person experiences menopause differently. Some will experience all the symptoms, while others might not even notice that they are going through menopause.
Menopause happens in three stages, each with different symptoms to look out for.
Stage One: Perimenopause (Before)
Perimenopause can start in your 30’s or 40’s and last for up to 10 years; however, 4 years is the average. During this stage, your estrogen and hormone levels start to drop but you are still able to become pregnant.
Symptoms of perimenopause can include irregular periods, hot flushes, breast tenderness or worsening premenstrual syndrome (PMS) [link]
Stage Two: Menopause (During)
Technically, you are ‘in menopause’ if you miss your period for 12 consecutive months (with exceptions to being sick, on medication, breastfeeding or pregnant). It’s a good idea to track your periods so that you can recognise when you are going through this stage. This is the stage when your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs, and it usually begins in your early 50’s.
Everyone is different and some will experience a range of symptoms, while others will experience few. Common symptoms during menopause include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Mood changes
- Elevated heart rate
- Sleep disturbance/insomnia
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
Stage Three: Postmenopause (After)
This is the final stage of menopause and begins when you are 12 months from your last period. Once reaching this point, you will remain postmenopausal for the rest of your life.
For most, menopause symptoms will begin to ease during this stage, however some symptoms that occurred during perimenopause can remain.
Menopause requires no medical treatment. However, natural remedies and hormone therapy are common treatments for relieving the signs and symptoms of menopause. Making healthy lifestyle choices can also help to reduce and prevent symptoms significantly.
Postmenopausal people are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, heart disease and other conditions, so it is important to make healthy diet and lifestyle choices and get regular check ups with your GP.