Early symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and mood swings. The reason for these symptoms can be attributed to fluctuating levels of ovarian (estrogen) hormones in the body. This journey is unique for every woman, so it’s important to understand each stage of this natural process and how long you can expect to experience menopausal symptoms.
The stages of menopause
Menopause occurs in three stages, and often, women do not know they have reached menopause until they’ve experienced an entire year of missed periods. The three stages of menopause include:
Perimenopause or “menopause transition” is the period leading up to menopause and lasts an average of four years, however, for some women this stage can begin eight to ten years before menopause begins. Perimenopause begins when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in her 30s or earlier. If you are younger than 40 and believe you are experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor to find out if hormone therapy is right for you.
Menopause is diagnosed once a woman has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months. At this stage, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. It is important to remember that menopause is a natural process, however there are effective treatment options available that focus on symptomatic relief (e.g., hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia).
Postmenopause includes the years following menopause. During this stage, menopausal symptoms tend to subside, but may continue for an average of four to five years. Fortunately, they also decrease in frequency and intensity. Due to decreased levels of estrogen, women are at an increased risk for a number of health conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease. Be sure to get plenty of exercise, calcium, vitamin D and practice preventative healthcare to stay healthy after menopause.
If you’re struggling with insomnia, hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms and are in need of relief, contact Bay Area Physicians for Women for skilled menopause treatment in Mobile, Alabama. Our board-certified physicians can help you overcome these issues and help you get back to enjoying life. Call 251-344-5900 to schedule an appointment.