Menopause is a natural occurrence in a woman’s life. Menopause occurs 12 months after a woman’s last period. It marks the end of the reproductive years and the cessation of menstruation.
Many women mistakenly believe that the years leading up to the end of their periods is menopause. In fact, this time of potential hot flashes and changes in their monthly cycles is a transitional period known as perimenopause.
The National Institute on Aging says menopause can take place between ages 45 and 55. Perimenopause may occur several years before that.
Signs the transitional years are beginning
Irregular menstruation is one of the first indications that a woman’s body is changing. Periods may come at different times or be shorter or last longer. Some women bleed more or less than usual. Women should consult their gynecologists if their periods last more than a week or if bleeding is especially heavy.
Hot flashes could occur
The NIA says many women experience hot flashes in both perimenopause and menopause. Hot flashes are believed to be related to changing estrogen levels. The sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of the body is often accompanied by flushing of the face and neck. When they occur at night, hot flashes are called night sweats.
Mood changes/sleep issues
Fluctuating hormones can cause other changes in the body. It’s common for women in perimenopause to experience mood changes. However, mood also may be affected by disruptions to sleep that can occur at this time. Women can speak to their doctors about remedies that can help with mood and sleep issues.
Since hormones are responsible for many operations in the female body, additional changes are possible at this point in a woman’s life. Thinning hair and dry skin may occur. Many women also complain of vaginal dryness. Loss of breast fullness might be evident. Furthermore, weight gain and slowed metabolism are possible.
The Mayo Clinic says women may still experience pregnancy in midlife despite irregular periods. This can be a confusing time for women, as they may not be sure if they’re pregnant or if they’ve started the menopause transition.
After a woman experiences menopause and enters post-menopause, she is more vulnerable to heart disease and osteoporosis. Women should continue to see their doctors for routine health visits and screenings.
Menopause is often accompanied by various side effects. Women can speak with their physicians if they have any questions or concerns during this unique time in their lives.