Menopause is one of the biggest womens health issues and can be a hard time for women, both physically and mentally. One thing that makes this transitional time more difficult is that its arrival doesn’t always announce itself if ways women expect and it doesn’t always come at the same age. The average age for it to begin is 51 but it can start as early as the 30s and others don’t experience until their 60s and a more realistic range is 40-58. Additionally a lifetime of economic hardship or depression can hasten its arrival. For a few years before menopause, a woman enters what’s called perimenopause. This is the real transition time for a woman and is one of the first stages of menopause. The impact it has on womens health is significant so knowing what to look for is important.
These are some signs a woman should look for:
Erratic periods. They can be heavier or lighter, the timing may be completely off and some women skip their periods for some months and then they come back. Ovulation fluctuates during this time. It is very important that women who are prone to anemia seek medical advice should their menstrual cycle start to include heavy bleeding and/or if it does on for an excessive time frame as this can be dangerous. Even women who are not normally prone to anemia may become so.
Hot flashes and night sweats. The vast majority of women will experience both. How bad they become or how long they last varies from woman to woman.
Mood changes. A woman’s hormones are in constant flux during this transition and it has an impact. Women may experience mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability and have a harder time dealing with stress than normal. Memory changes and problems may also happen.
Insomnia. Women may experience insomnia or other sleep problems.
Vaginal issues. With diminishing estrogen levels come changes to the uterus. It becomes more dry and loses elasticity. This can make intercourse either painful or uncomfortable.
Bladder problems: Urinary tract infections and a loss of tissue tone can accompany the decree in estrogen. The latter can contribute to incontience.
Changes to the libido. This transitional time can gradually reduce a woman’s libido. Other contributing factors could also be the stress the time brings. Doing things to lessen that stress is vitally important.
Changes to the skin and body. The drop in estrogen also causes the skin to lose collagen and the body to lose muscle mass. The former makes the skin less elastic and thin it a bit. The latter may lead to an increase in fat. Both can be very stressful for women.
Many womens health experts recommend women who are in perimenopause or menopause start hormone replacement therapy or HRT. There are no menopause solutions but there are ways to make the changes more bearable. In HRT several hormones are given to offset their decline in the woman’s body. They are typically: estrogen, progesterone and progestin.
Some women will opt for biodentical hormone therapy, which is used to do the same things but utilizes hormones that have been chemically altered to be exactly the same as the ones the woman used to produce herself.
Women who think they are in either menopause or perimenopause should talk to their health care provider to map out the best plan for the individual.