Menopause symptoms last an average of 4-5 years, which is a long time for many women to struggle with hormonal changes. This is especially true since many people don’t know what exactly menopause does to the body and what symptoms are normal for menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Educating yourself on menopause is essential for your sexual and holistic wellness at all stages of the menopausal process. Here, we’re going to talk about how this natural process works, what its stages are, and what common symptoms you may contend with. Read on for answers to all of your common questions and to get some ideas on how to treat your most uncomfortable symptoms.
What Exactly Is Menopause?
Most women know of menopause as the end of their fertility. However, there is not much discussion of it beyond the cessation of periods and the lack of reproductive viability. Unfortunately, this leaves many women without the knowledge needed to navigate a confusing time filled with hormonal changes and uncertainty.
That’s why it’s important to define what exactly menopause is. Menopause is defined as the time period in which a woman’s menstrual cycles come to a permanent end. It also refers to other changes that you go through right before or after the periods stop.
What Causes Menopause?
While men can continuously produce new sperm throughout their lives, women are born with all of their eggs already stored in their ovaries. The ovaries also create estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that control both menstruation and ovulation.
As you age, the levels of these hormones naturally decrease. You won’t produce as much estrogen or progesterone and will eventually run out of the eggs that you were born with. Once the ovaries run out of functioning eggs, menopause begins.
At What Age Does Menopause Typically Begin?
The average age for menopause to initiate is around 50. However, some women reach it as early as 40. There isn’t a single answer to the question of when menopause will begin.
There are several contributing factors to figuring out when you will begin menopause. Genetics is the most common consideration, so you likely will begin showing menopausal symptoms around the same age that your mother did. This is especially true if your grandmother or other women in your family reached menopause around the same time.
However, menopause can also be initiated because of ovarian damage caused by smoking or chemotherapy. Ovarian surgery can also damage healthy tissue within the reproductive system and initiate the end of your reproductive years. The timeframe for menopause varies from person to person due to several possible reasons.
The Stages of Menopause
There are three main stages of menopause.
The first, perimenopause, describes the timeframe leading up to menopause. During this stage, your hormone levels will begin to decline. Periods will become irregular even if they previously were predictable.
You may begin to have hot flashes and vaginal dryness at this point in time. However, this also may come during the second stage of the menopausal process: menopause itself.
Menopause begins when you have stopped producing hormones that cause your period. Your irregular bleeding will stop and you will have no menstrual cycle. Your hot flashes and other symptoms may increase in intensity during this timeframe.
After a full year with no periods, postmenopause begins. Postmenopause isn’t finite but rather is a state that you will be in for the remainder of your life.
You will no longer have periods or release eggs. You will continue to have naturally low hormone levels throughout the postmenopausal phase. You also can no longer get pregnant since your ovaries don’t have viable eggs to fertilize.
The entire process can take anywhere between 2 and 10 years.
Common Menopause Symptoms
Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms associated with menopause. However, temperature dysregulation is a problem in the more general sense as well. You will also likely experience night sweats and a strange warmth in your chest at seemingly random intervals.
On the other end of the spectrum, many menopausal women also note having chills. This is just as natural as hot flashes. You may have both chills and hot flashes regularly (and even experience them back-to-back).
Like all menopausal symptoms, these issues may begin during perimenopause and persist throughout menopause itself.
Sleep problems are a natural outcome of night sweats and poor temperature regulation. It’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you constantly need to grab more blankets or change the thermostat. Sweating and experiencing chills can also keep you uncomfortably awake.
Vaginal dryness is another common menopause symptom that poses problems for women. This issue is caused by hormonal changes since your body no longer produces the same amount of sex hormones as it used to. Consequently, you may find that your vagina no longer is as self-lubricating as you are accustomed to it being.
This can make sex uncomfortable, but you can luckily become more comfortable with lube. Note that vaginal dryness is often accompanied by a decrease in your sex drive.
Mood Swings and Changes
A decreased sex drive is not the only mood shift that you may note during menopause.
About 70% of women cite irritability as their main emotional issue during perimenopause and menopause. You’re not alone if you find yourself snapping at others more or becoming annoyed about seemingly small problems.
This annoyance can stem in part from anxiety, which is another mood issue that many menopausal women face. You may find yourself more nervous than usual and notice greater muscle tension than before. Many women also begin to experience panic attacks during menopause.
Depression also affects about a fifth of women going through menopause. This serious side effect may manifest as a lack of interest in hobbies and an inability to complete tasks. It also may come with crying episodes, which reduce stress and release negative emotions.
Changes to Your Appearance
Menopause slows the metabolism, which in turn may cause you to gain weight. This weight will likely go to the stomach and thighs. You also will likely lose breast tissue during menopause and find your breasts to be less round and full.
Thinning hair is also common for women at all stages of the menopause process. You also may find yourself contending with dry skin and similar signs of aging. There are simple ways to combat these cosmetic changes, but it’s important to understand that they are natural rather than a sign that something is wrong.
Treatment for Uncomfortable Symptoms
You may think that fighting the unpleasant symptoms of menopause should be a priority for those going through it.
Surprisingly, however, 73% of women are not currently treating their menopause symptoms. The 27% that are have a more pleasant time with natural aging processes because they feel healthier and more at home in their bodies.
Treating Individual Symptoms
Many women make lifestyle changes to naturally treat each unpleasant menopause symptom individually. In many cases, this is a good choice that leads to a healthier lifestyle. Some ideas for treating common symptoms include:
- Fans, small heaters, and layering to combat temperature dysregulation
- Opening windows for fresh air
- Using lube and over-the-counter medication to fight vaginal dryness and sex-drive changes
- Therapy and at-home mindfulness exercises to help with mood swings
- Exercise and dietary changes to prevent excessive weight gain
- Anti-aging lotion and cosmetic procedures to stop other changes in appearance
However, these remedies tend to be short-term. They are important, but you will need to invest in more permanent solutions as well. That’s where overall wellness comes into play- it helps you to care for your entire body and mind in the long term.
Promoting Holistic Natural Wellness
Menopause symptoms all stem from hormonal changes, so it’s important to look into holistic solutions for this hormonal decline. You need to naturally optimize them to ensure that they are perfect for your health and lend to a great lifestyle.
Natural hormone optimization allows bioidentical hormones to enter your body. These hormones are exactly like those that you produced before menopause. Your cells therefore immediately recognize and use them to keep you looking and feeling great.
Because this is a 100% natural way to replenish your hormones, it doesn’t carry the same risks as synthetic hormones do. Our experts also will customize the prescription to be as effective and safe as possible for your specific needs. They also are easy to consume since they come in pills, creams, or gels depending on the way that you want to take them.
Boost Your Overall Wellness Today
While hot flashes and hormonal changes can be a painful inconvenience, there are ways to lessen your menopause symptoms and feel great again. Now that you know the basics of menopause, it’s time to start focusing on your holistic wellness.
Desert Wellness Center is committed to providing patients with tools, resources, and professional assistance to stay healthy and fit. We offer naturopathic wellness services as well as hormonal health and aging assistance. Contact us with any remaining questions that you have about feeling your best during menopause.